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Are Electric Vehicles Really Better for the Climate? Yes. Here’s Why

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/02/14/are-electric-vehicles-really-better-climate-yes-heres-why

Half of all carbon emissions equated to each auto built happens before the vehicle is driven away.

Also an increase in EVs will significantly increase electricity demand. All talk of switching to renewables leaves out that all of the switching to electricity for everything increases demand and at the same time they say we can power the transition with electricity. I have yet to see a true accounting.


This article appears to support the automobile-centric “American lifestyle” that was famously declared non-negotiable. What we truly need is less dependence on personal auto ownership.
For those few trips where a car is truly needed, renting a car, group sharing, taxi services need to take over.



Did I accidentally click into the NY Times “Style” Section featuring an ad for a 75,000 (baseline price) Audi SUV? :scream:

Most EV’s baseline price start at about thirty thousand dollars.

No problem!

And what about the environmental cost of the production of EV’s?

Is there going to be an extra tax for driving an EV?

As I stated in a previous post, Wisconsin just imposed a massive tax on those of us who drive hybrid vehicles. My license plate renewal fee doubled in one year because of this.

And what about the horrific impacts of roads (road salt as well) on the environment?

The United States contains over 4 million miles of roadways and an estimated 20% of land in the country is impacted by the presence of roads.
This large network of roads has dramatically altered the landscape and can impact wildlife in a number of deleterious ways

More than one million animals die each day on roads in the u.s. Road mortality is the leading cause of vertebrate deaths in the u.s.


That number is probably much higher today given the article was published in 2010.

Mass transportation options in the u.s. are pathetic----there is little to no focus on trains in this country. I despise the fact that their was a well orchestrated forced dependence on cars by the auto and fossil fuel industry.


The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life

Considering the constant fatalities, rampant pollution, and exorbitant costs of ownership, there is no better word to characterize the car’s dominance than insane.



Excellent comments. Thanks for the reference to the Atlantic article.

Has anyone (or organization like ACLU) considered challenging increased registration fee for fuel efficient vehicles? If charging hybrids for consuming less fuel is legal, what’s to prevent Wisconsin from mandating that every auto must be driven a minimum number of miles each year (or pay a penalty)? Are gasoline vehicles charged registration fees based on their mpg figures as well?


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This article is saying that being shot in the arm is better than being shot in the heart.
Electric vehicles themselves don’t generate fossil fuel emissions, but the sourcing and use of materials, and the manufacturing and maintenance of any vehicle, creates environmental harm.
The generation of electricity for electric vehicles creates severe environmental harms, including windmills, dams, solar, nuclear.
The problem with technoutopian optimism is it deliberately ignores externalities and logistics. It’s like: hey kids, we can continue to drive personal vehicles, travel excessively, and otherwise live luxuriously with all our toys and obesity, and technology will solve all the negative consequences of our actions.
Magical thinking, not based in reality.


One conundrum I have never seen mentioned is that if we fully ween ourselves off of oil for fuel what would we build or rebuild our roads with? Currently, we use asphaltenes, the “bottom of the barrels” that are not useful making fuels nor polymers for plastics, etc. The chemical engineers can, of course, work their magic to make whatever is necessary to pave roadways and runways, but I have never seen an economic/ecologic forecast of such an impact of transitioning into renewables. Now trust me, I am FOR renewables all of the way, I just want to see some of this gap information filled to sate my curiosity, nosey engineer that I am…


Additionally, actions we can take to reduce all driving (whether from gasoline or EVs) will help lower emissions. Sharing rides, using public transit, and making it easier to walk and bike are all important solutions to climate change. But for the personal vehicle trips that we can’t avoid today, switching to an EV can make a big difference in how much global warming emissions we produce and is one of the biggest actions a household can take to reduce their carbon footprint.

While I agree with the author’s well-researched assessment of gas versus electric vehicles, adding on the above last paragraph, almost as an afterthought, reinforces the myth the technological fix. When he talks about “Those actions we can take to reduce all driving (whether from gasoline or EVs)”, those actions should be listed as the primary mans of reducing emissions in the transport sector. Electric cars should be the something additional we can do, but going electric should not rate as equivalent to reducing consumption.

Any call to reduce consumption will not be popular with the majority of American consumers, but popular or not, reducing consumption and putting a brake on the American lifestyle cannot be avoided if this country is to significantly reduce emissions. Any plan that ignores the consumption issue or that minimizes it (the GND) is doomed to fail. The conversation on battling global warming in this country has been avoiding the consumption elephant in the room for far too long. Good to see that other comments that recognize this.


EXCELLENT questions! I am going to explore the first one next week when have some time.

The Union of Concerned Scientists have always had an annoyingly affluent-whitye-suburban" perspective. I used to be a supporting member until I noticed that the never even mention public transit and walkable-bikeable urban design as an important means of not only addressing climate change, but also greatly improving the quality of life in cities. I tried to bring this issue to their attention, was ignored. So I quit the organization.


Electric cars do help address CO2 emissions, and I own a small one (Smart ED) plus a electric motor scooter which I have kept running as my main transportation for at least 9 months out of the year. The electricity comes from a Pennsylvania wind-solar sourced supplier.

But now the bad news that the car-centric suburban UCS will not tell you. There is simply not enough feasibly recoverable lithium, (and cobalt and nickel assuming they continue to use the high energy density NMC chemistry) on earth to even begin to replace half of the 95 million cars and trucks produced worldwide every year - especially considering that non-polluting, non energy intensive technologies that can recover the lithium and other metal ions from used batteries is still only in its basic research phase. The roughly 2 million EVs produced worldwide (the greatest number in China) are already running into supply problems with the batteries.

So electric or not, the problem remains the car itself - the most absurdly inefficient and socially/environmentally disruptive gadget that the capitalists have ever foisted and forced on us.


There will always be a need for oil, gas and coal for some kinds of chemical materials. And there are some vital materials - notably steel and cement, that intrinsically produce CO2. But compared to transportation, power generation, and agriculture, those CO2 emissions are small and amenable to CCS.

Nobody is proposing, nor is need for, human carbon emissions to go to absolutely zero point zero.

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The activities inherent to sourcing lithium, steel, iron, and the many other materials that make cars are all horrible for the biosphere.
The activities that generate electricity for electric cars are also all horrible for the biosphere.
And if they weren’t dead, you could confirm that fact by asking the millions of birds chopped up by windmills and fried by solar arrays.
Human carbon emissions can never go to net zero because we exhale C02. However, given that our entire world economy is based on raping the earth and filling the atmosphere with poisonous manmade substances, along with C02 that heats up the planet, we should get as close to net zero environmental impact as possible.
At present, we are at 100% net destruction–a mass extinction event.


What a statement David Carson. Heartbreakingly true.

Now we have human induced bomb cyclones like the one (“Dennis”) gaining strength in the N. Atlantic.

I’m wondering if this is going to impact sea ice?

The CO2 humans exhale is not a “CO2 emission” because it is exactly balanced by the CO2 taken up growing the food we eat (including animal feed). Only CO2 from fossil carbon results in higher CO2 in the atmosphere. But, if we can reduce human CO2 emissions to perhaps say a fraction of the natural primary geologic sources of CO2 (primarily volcanoes) which are much less than current human emissions, then human emission will be become buried in the natural variability of volcanic emissions and would be “zero” for practical purposes.

Oh, and actually, the lithium (in salt form) used for lithium batteries is fairly environmentally friendly to mine and concentrate they just use solar evaporation of brine from certain lithium-rich salt lake flats (like Bolivia’s Salar Uyuni). But still, there is simply not enough of it as such lithium-rich salt deposits are rare.

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Good to see you, Yunzer!

Is there a way to send a personal message through some CD feature?


True. But we really don’t know what alternative engineering solutions will be until the need is there. Is ocean extraction If lithium feasible? Would we decide that lithium can’t do the entire job and we come up with replacement ideas? (I realize the aluminum air concept is not rechargable - too bad, I think there is a lot more aluminum). Maybe if the cost of lithium rises enough another scheme completely different will arise like ammonia fuel cells.

But I’m sure glad we are finally looking at moving away from ICE cars which I have hated as a consumer (always something going wrong) and as a cyclist riding behind the damn things). I do like driving my Leaf now and sure I wish there were more public transportation options that really worked but BEVs are going to part of the mix for a long time to go.

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Excellent comments. Others beat me to most of what I would have said, and made more good points. I might add that the article fails to discuss the costs of making the car and the batteries to put in it. It’s disappointing that “scientists” produced such a narrow study. Here is a more comprehensive one that does a better job of looking at the overall costs: Factcheck: How electric vehicles help to tackle climate change at carbonbrief dot org. (Does anyone know why we can’t include links?) Where batteries are produced is a big issue. The article does conclude that as we decarbonize, buying an EV is preferable to buying a conventional gas vehicle, even a Prius. But even then does it make sense to buy an EV if you already have a Prius?

As others have discussed, we really need alternatives to private vehicles. I live in the car-choked SF Bay Area. But in spite of its liberal reputation, its public transit is shabby and unreliable and there’s no sign it will get better. I don’t know what planet my neighbors live on, but it doesn’t seem to be the one that I see headed to hell.

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This article is stupid on steroids! Just because EVs don’t have tailpipes what about all the environmental costs to build them as some above have said, and the electricity to run them, and finally to get rid of them when they wear out? This is more wishful dreaming – pixie dust and unicorn methane thinking. The globalists hidden plan is to make driving so miserable and expensive that most people will give up driving altogether.

Right now the globalists are trying to kill us off/ population reduction via chem trails, toxic vaccines, 5G and other microwave, phony “health” care promoting pharmaceuticals while suppressing real health care, pesticide processed food and on and on. So how many human bodies can this planet support without suiciding itself? And nature along with it?

I just wish the globalists would take another approach. If they explained how much one person taxes the planet in their life time – the number of animals they eat, the fuel they consume, the pounds of food they eat with associated costs – well you get the picture – and they made the case for voluntary population reduction I think they would be surprised at the co-operation they would get. Voluntary population reduction instead of all this surreptitious populacide and miserable agendas like EVs and stack’em&pack’em housing, among others. Just a thought. Gopherit

Aside from the points raised above there is also the matter of electric cars being designed in the least sustainable way possible.
The lithium batteries that most electric cars use are a horrible invention as they are designed to wear out in a very short period of time, originally intended to force people to upgrade their phones on a regular basis.
They start degrading as soon as they are built, and dont even need to be used in order to eventually become useless. Electric cars also typically come with a ton of useless features that all require electricity and eventual maintenence. Also typically featured is the usual tracking equipment and a hackable onboard computer with wifi access. To top it off they require an immense amount of electricity and have to be constantly recharged. Your typical E-Golf has to stop every hour to recharge the batteries or risk running out of power.