Are electric vehicles really green?

Cars with a higher carbon footprint due to “coal”? NO

A common argument is that these electric vehicles will emit as much greenhouse gases as thermal vehicles because the electricity they use is itself produced by power plants that use fossil fuels such as coal.

But according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an electric car charged in St. Louis, Missouri—one of the states most dependent on coal for electricity—produces an average of 247 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile

And when the entire life cycle is taken into account, from the production of raw materials for batteries to disposal at the end of their service life, internal combustion vehicles still emit much more CO2 than electric vehicles, expert organization International concluded. Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) in fat study.

Mining on “dirty” batteries? YES BUT…

Battery manufacturing is an energy intensive process as some components are mined and raw materials need to be transported around the world to be assembled and sold. Their processing is expensive.

“That’s a huge exaggeration”

According to a Facebook post, 227 tons of earth would need to be excavated to extract the metals needed for one electric car battery. This estimate appears to be based on an analysis published in 2020 by the Manhattan Institute, a climate skeptical research group.

But according to some experts, these figures are misleading. “That’s a huge exaggeration”, says Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University, Australia. According to him, it all depends on the region of exploration and the type of battery.

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In addition to the climate, mining has other negative effects: 70% of the cobalt, one of the components of batteries, comes from, for example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where children are exploited in the mines. Access to components also creates strategic supply issues, many of which come from China, according to the International Energy Agency.

“The impact (of oil extraction) on the climate is much greater than the extraction of batteries”

However, drilling for oil wells, with its significant environmental impact, is not the best solution, according to Georg Beaker, an ICCT researcher. The risk of global warming caused by greenhouse gases is much higher for humanity, UN climate experts (IPCC) recently concluded.

“In any case, it is clear that the social and environmental impacts of global warming are catastrophic and on a much larger scale than mining for batteries.”says Georg Bicker.

Excessive consumption of electricity in extreme conditions? NO

After a snowstorm in Virginia, US, in January, people shared messages on Facebook claiming that electric cars risk breaking down in traffic, leaving their passengers stranded without heating inside and lengthening car lines again. Several fact-checking organizations have attempted to verify this claim and have not found any support for these claims.

The issue of overconsumption of electric vehicles during the cold season is debated among experts, with some arguing that combustion engine vehicles end up consuming more because they have to keep the engine running to heat.

British magazine What? tested the battery of an electric SUV, simulating the situation of a summer traffic jam, with the air conditioning, radio and lights inside turned on, and with a tablet connected.

In these summer conditions (and certainly not in winter), the testers consumed only 2% of the battery charge in an hour and a quarter, which is equivalent to 13 km of battery life.