Electric car photo from Shutterstock

A new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology states that electric cars that receive energy from coal-fired power plants could potentially have a higher carbon footprint than some of their petrol or diesel-powered counterparts. However If electric cars derive their electricity from renewable, emission-free sources such as solar and wind power, then they remain among the greenest vehicles on the road.

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The report published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology states that one of the most environmentally damaging aspects of EV manufacturing lies in the vehicles’ construction – they say EV factories emit more toxic waste than conventional car factories. However at the end of the day, the research team said that given the choice (and a clean source of energy), electric cars still remain the greenest choice.

Speaking to BBC News, co-author Prof Anders Hammer Stromman said that as with all vehicles, the production, the use, and the end-of-life dismantling of a car affects the environment. “The production phase of electric vehicles proved substantially more environmentally intensive. The global warming potential from electric vehicle production is about twice that of conventional vehicles.”

He noted that one of the more environmentally damaging aspects of electric car production is the construction of batteries and electric motors, which require a lot of toxic minerals such as nickel, copper and aluminum. The acidification impact is much greater than that of conventional car production. As such, electric cars have a large carbon footprint by the time they hit the road.

“The other impacts considered in the analysis including potential for effects related to acid rain, airborne particulate matter, smog, human toxicity, ecosystem toxicity and depletion of fossil fuel and mineral resources, electric vehicles consistently perform worse or on par with modern internal combustion engine vehicles, despite virtually zero direct emissions during operation,” added Prof Stromman.

However, Stromman noted that electric vehicles which were powered by electricity made from low-carbon electricity sources were still much more environmentally friendly as they offer “the potential for substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and exposure to tailpipe emissions” over time.

“If you are considering purchasing an electric vehicle for its environmental benefits, first check your electricity source and second look closely at the warranty on the batteries,” said Professor Stromman.

+ Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Via BBC News

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