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Would More Electric Vehicles Be Good for the Environment?

November 18, 2020
By Ben Lieberman

As policy makers take actions for force consumers to buy more electric cars they should be aware of the environmental harms such policy will cause.

Policy makers should be aware of the serious environmental disadvantages of forcing more electric cars on the road. 

From the study:

Producing a battery for an EV requires many mined materials, including lithium, cobalt, and rare earths. Most of this is mined and processed in nations like China, Congo, and Chile, where environmental standards are weaker than in the U.S. 

Beyond the local impacts of mining and processing on land, air, and water, the energy that goes into making an EV battery is more than that needed for a conventional vehicle engine and results in greater carbon dioxide emissions during the manufacturing stage. This so-called carbon debt is incurred by each EV before it is even driven its first mile and may take years to repay.

Replacing gasoline with electricity as the energy source for personal transportation does not eliminate emissions of air pollutants and carbon dioxide so much as displace them. If coal-fired electricity were to continue to be a significant part of the generation mix, then the emissions reductions from the transition may be minor and possibly nonexistent.