What Is The Real Environmental Cost of Electric Vehicles?

Electric vehicles are often touted as much better for the environment than cars with internal combustion engines. But just what are the environmental costs associated with electric vehicles?

It Starts with Production

For starters, electric cars are still made with materials that are mined, refined, and produced in non sustainable ways. The energy used to produce these cars in factories comes from power plants. Tires use resources such as oil and wear out regularly with use. So, even during production, there are still negative environmental costs.


The electric engine only has one moving part, while the internal combustion engine has dozens. This means that there will be less of a need to replace, repair, or modify an electric engine. This, in turn, leads to less environmental degradation because there will be fewer breakdowns and fewer parts to produce.

On the Road

Once on the road, there are far less negative environmental effects. Now, instead of requiring gasoline to be burned, the electric car can plug into an electrical outlet for fuel. Yet, this energy is often produced from gas or coal burning power plants. Only when an electric car gets electricity from solar, wind, or other sustainable power plants is their environmental impact severely reduced.


However, the electric car has far fewer emissions while it is being driven around. The only emissions are tiny bits of sulfur that are released when the battery is charged and unplugged. These amounts, however, are so small as to be practically non-existent, especially when compared to the emissions associated with the internal combustion engine. For instance, large amounts of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide are released during normal operations of an internal combustion engine. However, if the electricity is derived from coal or natural gas power plants, then driving an electrical car requires more emissions from those power plants.


The electric battery is usually made of either lead acid or lithium. Fortunately, both of these chemicals are recyclable in large amounts. This negates much of the environmental impact for the battery. However, these chemicals are still mined, refined, and produced in ways that are generally unhealthy for the environment. This means that, once again, an electric car still has negative environmental consequences.

The Sum Effects of Electric Cars

If electricity is obtained from coal burning power plants, then the electric car can cause more, not fewer, emissions. So, while the electric car is a vast improvement over the internal combustion engine, it still has a negative impact on the environment. However, as more power plants switch to green energy, the negatives will decrease.

Article by Miles Walker, a freelance writer and blogger who usually compare car insurance deals over at CarinsuranceComparison.Org.

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2 comments on “What Is The Real Environmental Cost of Electric Vehicles?

Steve Leo

Small correction, neither lead or lithium are chemicals. They are elements.


These points on impact are good, however two things are missing; efficiency and alternatives.

1) EVs are far more efficient compared to the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE); battery efficiency is around 80-95%, electric motors and motor controllers are 80% or higher. So the energy from whatever source is used to move people as opposed to the ICE which converts 75% to heat. so when I purchase electricity most of it is used for work.

2) the alternative to EVs are what we have today – a good question is what is the true cost of oil and the ICE? The fact is that oil is a magnet for war, and the cost of wars is never added to your charge at the pump it is just part of your taxes. Beyond the money – the cost of militarizing our oil production which occurred with IRAQ, and our bases in the middle east causes untold human suffering – time to kick the habit (oil) and move on.

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