5 Ways Electric Cars Help the Environment


Electric vehicles have become more prevalent in the automotive world due to their efficiency and ability to harness the power of renewable, sustainable energy. These features, in particular, are known to help the environment in several ways. 

Besides using renewable energy as a power source, electric cars help the environment by reducing pollution levels due to zero emissions at the point of transport. Electric cars are made with post-recycled materials that minimize landfill waste.

While electric cars are a great alternative to traditional internal combustion engines for helping the environment, they still have a carbon footprint. However, this depends on the vehicle’s manufacturing and use. 

Regardless, electric automobile makers are working every day to design technology that can further improve their impact on the environment. 

How Electric Cars Help the Environment

Electric cars are becoming increasingly more popular due to their potential to help the environment. Below are five ways electric cars can help the environment:

1. Electric Cars Don’t Need Fuel

The most obvious benefit of electric cars: they don’t require oil or fuel. Instead, they operate on electricity. When the electricity is produced from renewable sources like wind, hydro, or solar then this reduces our reliance on fossil fuels. Even when not sourced from renewable energy, electric cars are more fuel efficient than traditional combustion engines and don’t require oil to lubricate the motor. 

No matter how you shake it, electric cars reduce your carbon footprint.

2. Electric Cars Can Maximize the Use of Renewable Energy

Not only does the car itself help the environment by running on renewable energy, but how it charges can help too. For example, drivers have the option of charging their electric vehicles in the garage of a solar-powered home, maximizing the use of sustainable energy. 

Additionally, most charging stations run on renewable energy, further taking advantage of this benefit. 

3. Electric Cars Have No Emissions

Unlike standard gas-run vehicles, electric cars have no exhaust system since they don’t have to burn fuel. As a result, they release no emissions, reducing greenhouse gases affecting the earth’s climate. 

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4. Electric Cars Are Efficient

Electric cars are also much more efficient than petrol. On average, an electric vehicle will travel 122 miles for every 20 miles that a gas-powered automobile will use the same amount of energy; this means less time charging the car and less strain on the power grid.

Even if the electricity for the car comes from a natural-gas fired power plant, the electricity consumed to operate the car goes farther than a natural-gas power car or a gasoline-powered car.

5. Electric Cars Reduce Waste

With traditional gas-run vehicles, old parts that need to be replaced cannot be reused. For this reason, the components are often thrown out, ultimately ending up in a landfill. On top of that, internal combustion engine cars have many moving parts that frequently need changing, meaning that more waste is added to landfills for every piece that needs replacement. 

In contrast, most electric cars are manufactured to ensure that many of their parts are recyclable, which reduces landfill waste. For instance, a Nissan Leaf’s interior is partially built of already recycled materials, such as plastic bags, water bottles, discarded car parts, and even household appliances. 

This practice is beneficial to both the automaker who saves money on the manufacturing process and the environment since these materials would otherwise go unused. 

Additionally, electric vehicles have fewer components that last much longer than their counterparts with maintenance, so even if non-recyclable pieces eventually need replacement, they still create far less waste. 

Effects on the Environment if Everyone Drove Electric Cars

With all the many benefits electric cars have for the environment, you may be wondering just how big of an impact we could make if everyone switched to electric vehicles. Well, according to National Interest and a peer-reviewed study, if this were to happen, the world’s C02 emissions would immediately be cut by approximately 8-12%. 

While this sounds like a step in the right direction, we also must consider the implications of every driver on the planet going electric. Switching to electric cars may greatly help the environment, but this also means that nearly 1.4 billion former gas-run vehicles would end up in our landfills—imagine parking every automobile in the world nose to nose around the earth twice! 

So with these mountains of cars, what do we do with them? The number of emissions that would be released from the machinery used to destroy and break them down would be much more than if we were to leave the cars intact. 

However, despite this daunting fact, the switch to electric cars can still benefit the environment, especially since a transition to them will likely happen over time, rather than all at once. Additionally, increased conservation efforts alongside this change will undoubtedly alleviate the impact of emissions in the long run.  

Related article: Are Electric Cars Really Green? A Scientific Look

Effects on the Oil Industry if Electric Cars Go Mainstream

As of September 2020, the average oil production level was about 100 million barrels per day.

According to Oil Giant BP, a worldwide ban on combustion engines would make a 10 million barrel a day difference. While this number seems high, it is only a 10% reduction.

However, while oil would suffer a minimal decrease in demand, other renewable sources of power and energy would greatly increase. For example, the use of sustainable energy has steadily risen 5% over the previous year for 15 consecutive years. 2020 was the first recorded year where only renewable energy increased in demand. 

So, electric vehicles are not only good for the environment but also for consumers and economic growth.

Related article: 9 Benefits of Owning an Electric Car

Could Electric Cars Ever Hurt the Environment?

The only ways an electric vehicle would harm the environment is by contributing to emissions in the following ways: 

  • Charging with fossil fuel-powered electricity
  • During the manufacturing process

Charging Methods

Most electricity generated comes from fossil fuels, nuclear power, or renewable energy sources, with a significant source being fossil fuels, coal or natural gas, when burned to power steam turbines. 

Therefore, if you decide to choose to charge your electric car at a charging station that runs on fossil fuel-powered electricity or inside your garage with a home that is powered the same way, the byproduct is emissions. 

However, with the creation of more solar-powered charging stations and the option to convert your home to run on solar power, it is becoming easier for drivers to reduce these emissions. 

Electric Car Manufacturing Process

Electric cars may be more efficient, but some components can be very difficult to make without creating a carbon footprint.

For example, electric vehicle batteries are made from rare materials like cobalt, manganese, nickel, graphite, lithium, and other earth elements. These are all precious metals that require very intensive mining to harvest, which creates a very large carbon footprint. 

However, while the production of these batteries and electric vehicles creates emissions, studies have shown that these emissions will still be three times less than a gas-powered car

Additionally, manufacturing processes continue to improve every day, meaning, there will be zero emissions for electric car production. For example, Tesla, the largest electric car brand globally, is currently constructing a Gigafactory that will allow it to produce its cars at a faster and more efficient pace. The plant will also be using completely sustainable energy, such as solar power, for operating equipment. 

How an Electric Car Can Be Your Way to Help the Environment

The evolution of electric vehicles has led to renowned advancements in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize and improve our environment. While not yet perfect, the electric car is a fantastic complement to our fight for a clean and healthy world. 

Electric vehicles can help the environment in multiple ways:

  • They don’t require oil or fuel, which reduces our need to rely on nonrenewable resources
  • They have zero emissions
  • They can run on renewable, sustainable energy
  • They use energy more efficiently
  • They reduce waste left in landfills
  • Some parts can be recycled

In conclusion, the more drivers that move toward an emission-free lifestyle by driving an electric vehicle, the greater the positive impact we can have on our environment!

Jordan Fromholz

I'm an electric car owner, enthusiast, and founder of the Plugin Report. As a Chemical Engineer with over 14-years in the energy industry, I've made my passions be renewable energy, batteries, and electric cars. My family lives on Maui where we drive our 2017 Nissan Leaf and share everything there is to know about electric cars.

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