Hybrids & Electrics

Do Electric Cars Produce a lot of Carbon Dioxide (CO2)?

As you tap your fingers on the steering wheel of your electric car, you look around at all the other vehicles shuffling side-by-side in the city traffic you slowly navigate. A discussion on the radio is alluding to the potential carbon emissions of electric vehicles and suddenly you are listening in rapt attention.

A heated environmentalist rebukes claims that electric cars produce CO2 emissions just as high –– if not higher –– than vehicles that use gasoline. You wonder if there is any merit to the claim. Do electric cars produce a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2)?

What is carbon dioxide (CO2)?

Carbon dioxide is the result of the combustion of organic materials, or fossil fuels, such as peat, petroleum, coal, and natural gas. Many of our daily lives require the use of such combustion for things like basic electricity, heating and cooling our homes, as well as driving our motor vehicles.

Whether you drive an electric vehicle or a car that requires gasoline to fuel its engine your car is creating emissions that contribute to the earth’s greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gas is gas that absorbs into the atmosphere and emits radiant energy that is said to contribute to global warming.

Because of the primary ways in which electric cars produce CO2, some have said they are hardly any help in reducing the amount of carbon emissions produced by road vehicles.

How much CO2 do electric vehicles produce?

To understand how much an electric vehicle produces, it helps to see where the emissions come from. There are two main causes of carbon emissions from electric cars.

The first cause of carbon emission due to electric vehicles is their manufacture. Making an electric car can produce massive carbon emissions. For instance, the batteries are a huge source of emissions.

According to research done by the Swedish Environment Institute, the moment an electric car is manufactured up to 17.5 tons of carbon dioxide is emitted by the making of the average electric car battery. That measurement is even larger with the production of some of the larger batteries.

To put that into perspective, a conventional internal combustion engine can produce around 45 metric tons of CO2 in a lifecycle of 160,000 miles.

But electric cars are zero emissions, right?

Unfortunately, zero emissions is still a bit of a pipe dream. While electric cars don’t directly emit large amounts of carbon, they may still be producing a lot more than you think. This greatly depends on the local methods for producing electricity.

If you still live in an area in which electricity is still largely a coal-heavy operation, your electric car may not actually make much of an environmental difference. However, if you are lucky enough to reside in an area where the electricity produced uses significantly lower amounts of fossil fuels, then your electric car is more likely to have a positive impact on carbon emissions.

Do electric cars emit a lot of Carbon?

There isn’t really a straight answer to this question. Carbon emissions still come down to several factors. If you are working to reduce your carbon footprint, an electric car can be an effective measure. But, you have to be mindful of the electricity used to charge your battery. In addition, trading your current electric vehicle in for a new one every few years isn’t beneficial to the environment.

Even if it is only by a few tons, most electric cars can emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But you probably want to keep reusing and recycling too. It looks like an electric car has less impact on carbon emissions than some might think.