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Are Electric Cars Definitely Greener Than Gasoline?

At first glance, electric cars can seem like the perfect antidote to petrol and diesel vehicles, whose exhaust fumes are choking cities and communities with air pollution. But they can still have harmful effects on the environment.

Electric cars are only as green in terms of greenhouse gas emissions as the energy used to manufacture them and charge their batteries. However, a recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation concluded that electric vehicles are responsible for fewer greenhouse gas emissions during their lifetime (including manufacture) than their petrol-powered counterparts. But this difference was much larger in some places than in others.

In Europe, an electric car generates up to 69 percent fewer CO2 equivalents per kilometer than a petrol engine. In India, however, that figure is 34 percent. The disparity depends on how electricity is sourced in each country.

One of the world’s lowest-carbon places to charge an electric car is France, where just 9 percent of electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. However, many countries still produce most of their electricity from coal, oil and gas, so plugging in an electric car in China or India can indirectly cause a large number of greenhouse gases.

Electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries can pose an environmental hazard if carelessly disposed of, although they are significantly less toxic than traditional lead-acid automotive batteries. Unlike lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries are difficult to recycle and can explode if improperly disassembled. Only 5 percent is currently recycled.

Many automakers like Tesla are ramping up their recycling programs, but it remains to be seen if they’ll be able to meet the surge in demand as the electric vehicles on the road today reach the end of their useful lives.

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Asked by: Harry Thomas, Eastbourne

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