I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly fond of electric vehicles. The lack of noise and emotion is something which I might never get used to, but it is the future we’re headed towards nonetheless. The truth of the matter is, however, that EVs are still not ready to completely substitute the internal-combustion engine. I’m not talking about the range or lack of thereof, nor am I talking about the incredibly slow recharge time.
When you think of an electric vehicle, you immediately associate it with 0 emissions. In a way, that’s true. The car itself does not emit any harmful emissions in the traditional sense. However, the manufacturing process for the electricity produced to charge it does. And the same applies to the manufacturing process of an EV.
A recent study conducted by the boffins from MIT found that electric cars aren’t as innocent as most people think. As an example, they took the most popular EV there is the Tesla Model S. The study found that over the course of its entire life, the Model S will, in fact, emit more harmful emissions in the atmosphere than a small internal-combustion engine supermini.
Several factors were taken into account, including the car’s production method, the potential for recycling, the emissions produced by plants for the electricity required, etc. As a reference, the small and plucky Mitsubishi Mirage was chosen. These two couldn’t be any further from each other if they tried. One is a little, cheap supermini meant to get people around, and the other a state-of-the-art, full-size electric sedan showing the way of the future.
It was found that during the cars’ lifetimes, the Tesla Model S will account for 226g/km of CO2, versus the Mirage’s 192g/km. Although it’s not a massive number, 34g/km is a lot when you factor in how many kilometers the cars are going to cover over the span of their lives. The study aimed to show that in today’s age, electric cars are actually no less harmful than small gasoline superminis.
Now, of course, comparing the Model S to any ‘modern’ luxury/sports car yields different results, since a humble BMW 750 xDrive emits 159g/km of CO2 more than the Tesla. This didn’t need a study since most of us already knew that.
With time, as manufacturers perfect the electric cars’ production process and batteries become more recyclable, that CO2 figure could be drastically cut down. The study doesn’t want to disprove the case for the EV, but rather to entice manufacturers to get better at it. It’s why they’re currently teamed up with Lamborghini, working on future battery tech.
For the moment, keeping your current car (whether it’s diesel or gasoline) will help the planet more than if you were to buy a brand-new EV. Unless it’s ancient, the economic costs of actually maintaining it and keeping it going are far smaller than those required to build a brand-new EV.