Are Electric Cars Better For The Environment? Maybe, Maybe Not

One of the biggest drivers of consumer demand for electric powered vehicles has been the underlying belief that these vehicles are actually better for the environment. However, a new study conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology seems to cast doubt on this belief.

The study was conducted to determine is electric vehicles simply shift concerns about the environment from one aspect to another. In other words, these new vehicles might not run on fossil fuels, which has been shown to cause global CO2 issues, but what about the toxic materials used in construction of the batteries and the production of the electricity used to power these vehicles? Do these factors outweigh any benefits gained from the fact they do not require fossil fuel to operate?

Perhaps not surprisingly to many, the study showed that yes, these vehicles do shift the balance away from fossil fuels and that the shift results in negative gain. In other words, are electric vehicles better for the environment? The answer is, no.

This does not mean that electric vehicles are bad and the technology should be abandoned. It simply means that consumers should be made aware that there are disadvantages to using electric vehicles and efforts should be undertaken to make them less harmful to environment, much as those same efforts made fossil fuel powered vehicles less harmful to the environment, such as the introduction of the catalytic converter and the elimination of the need for gasoline with lead.

No technology when first introduced is perfect. There is always a learning curve and always room for improvement when something new is rolled out. However, it is important for consumers to understand exactly what they getting before they commit to buy. If they are choosing an electric vehicle simply to decrease their dependence on having to stop at a gas station, then that’s ok. If they believe that buying an electric vehicle will somehow save the planet, well, that’s another story altogether.