The Carbon Footprint Of Electric Cars Vs Gasoline

This is an awesome question: what's the carbon footprint of electric cars vs gasoline cars? 

It’s not quite as straightforward as you might expect, either.

There’s no doubt that on a day-to-day basis that electric car emissions are lower than those of gasoline vehicles but that’s not the whole story and there’s more to the story than you might first consider.


Do Electric Cars Produce Emissions?

Yes, they do. 

Though an electric car does not produce any “tailpipe emissions” that doesn’t mean that it’s not responsible for any emissions at all.

electric car charging

So, if the question was do electric cars give off emissions the answer would be no but it’s more complicated than that. 

In fact, there are three main causes of emissions from electric cars: manufacturing, energy sources and battery recycling.


Manufacturing: CO2 Emissions Of Electric Car Vs Gasoline

Here the news is actually pretty bleak when you consider CO2 emissions of an electric car in manufacturing, they’re greater than when manufacturing a gasoline car!

In fact, according to scientists, the emissions may be between 15% and 68% greater when manufacturing an electric vehicle!


Energy Source: Carbon Footprint Of Electric Vehicle VS Gas

There’s another issue. 

While everyone thinks that electricity is green, it’s not. 

In many cases, it’s produced from oil or coal power plants and that means large amounts of carbon emissions.

As you might expect when we compare car emissions vs power plant emissions the electric vehicles are more environmentally friendly than gasoline vehicles.

green energy solar power and wind power

But it’s not as dramatic as you might have thought.

The good news is that many power plants, over time, will be replaced with green energy sources.

And when we couple that with improvements in battery storage – in the long-term electric vehicles will be much cleaner than their gas counterparts. 


Battery Recycling: The Carbon Footprint Of Electric Cars Vs Gasoline

Finally, there’s the minor issue of the batteries in electric cars.

As these are the core power source for the car they are huge and making them is not very energy efficient and sadly, neither is recycling these batteries.

In fact, the process is hugely inefficient.

In most cases, you can’t recover much more than 20% of the materials in the battery. 

And they need recycling a lot as once they drop below 70-80% of capacity, in general, they are no use in a car anymore.

There is some good news here because they can often be repurposed rather than recycled at this point and be used with solar PV systems, instead. 


Final Thoughts On The Carbon Footprint Of Electric Cars Vs Gasoline

The carbon footprint of electric cars vs gasoline isn’t as slanted in favor of electric cars as you might expect.

Sure, in the long-term this equation will change and it will be very much in favor of electric cars but for now, though an electric car is greener than a gasoline vehicle – it’s not that much greener.

Of course, if you want a more efficient (and thus greener electric vehicle) you might want to check out these scooters, skateboards and bicycles instead. 

3 Comments

  1. I travel between 240km and 3000km a year in Melbourne Australia in a petrol 1994 Peugeot 405 Mi16 sedan which I sometimes use for towing a small box trailer. I suspect that an electric car would be inefficient as the charge in the battery dissipates while the car is not in use.

  2. The increased weight of EV is also a factor because of increased damage to roads and energy needed to repair the roads more often.

    • Unfortunately, the money needed to repair the roads (at lease here in the US) is not forthcoming. It (the money) is apparently far more needed for the arms industry and subsequent wars(contemporary). I wonder about the total carbon emissions of fighter jets, tanks, artillery, etc. as compared to electric or gas powered cars.

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