Are Electric cars better for the environment?


Mia Bernota, Writer

Lots of talk has been surfacing about these new, sleek and supposedly, “enviornmentally efficent” electric cars. But the real question is, are electric cars really better for the environment as of now? The proposal of these new companies coming out with electric only cars is that their battery-powered motors are cleaner than gas-burning engines. Tesla, Chevrolet, Nissan and BMW are just a few of the bigger companies coming out with electric cars. 

The environmental footprint of these cars must include the materials used to build it, and fuel it. This includes the need to factor in emissions and harmful materials used to mine the raw materials needed to build these electric car batteries- think seriously poisonous materials such as cobalt and nickel. Alexandre Milovanoff, Heather MacLean and I. Daniel Posen at the University of Toronto Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering share their research on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from electric vehicles. “Building both a Tesla Model 3 and a Toyota RAV4 generates several tons of greenhouse gas emissions to smelt the aluminum, manufacture the components and assemble the vehicle. But building a Tesla actually generates more emissions because of the metals needed for its lithium-ion battery. Before it rolls off the assembly line, the Tesla has generated 65% more emissions than the RAV4.” Now you may be thinking, “If the Tesla produces harm to the environment while building it, why are we continuing it?”

 As soon as these cars hit the road after building it on the assembly line, things begin to change. The Toyota begins to burn gas which is refined from crude oil extracted from wells around the world. The amount of miles a electric car can drive before needing to be recharged is often less than the number of miles a gas powered car can drive before needing a gas refill. The Tesla being refueled by electricity compensates for no need of motor oil changes which is great for not emitting this motor oil, polluting the air. Although generating this electricity creates emissions, the U.S grid is becoming cleaner each and every year by burning less coal and using more renewable and natural resources and gas.

At 20,600 miles, the greenhouse gas emissions from building and driving the two cars are roughly the same, according to the University of Toronto analysis. Every mile driven, generation the electricity for the Tesla gives off 34% of the emissions affiliated with creating and burning the gas consumed in the Toyota which is extremely significant in the long run. The benefits and cleanliness of an electric car just increase compared to a gas powered car the more it is driven. By 36,000 miles, the Tesla’s overall lifetime emissions are significantly lower than the gas-powered Toyota. The total cost of buying the RAV4, filling it with gasoline, maintaining it and then reselling it at 100,000 miles nets out to $33,500, according to Consumer Reports. For the Model 3 Tesla? Just bit more at $34,800, but extremely worth it. At 200,000 miles, the lifespan of the typical gas powered car, the emmision comparison is not even close. 

There are many benefits to driving an electric car rather than a gas powered car. For starters, they are much more efficient with the advantage of having the charger at your own house. More upsides are the cost-efficiency; these cars are fueled at very low prices and many of these cars will even offer great incentives for you to get money back from the governmet for, “going green.” The biggest advantage of these new electric cars is the cleanliness they produce by being veryt eco-friendly once they are manufactured and on the roads. By purchasing a battery powered, all electric car, you are definitely contributing to a clean, healthy and pure climate and environment around you. So, while the early stages of production and manufacturing are still pretty bad for the environment, once you have driven the electric car for a year or two, the impact for our environment is far less than driving a traditional gas powered automobile.