Sentence Outline

Will Electric Vehicles Really Reduce Pollution?

ABSTRACT: The amount of pollution created by electric vehicles depends mostly on the source of the electricity used to charge them. This makes it impossible to determine if electric vehicles pollute less than internal combustion engine vehicles without considering where they are to be deployed and by what sources of electricity they are to be powered. An electric vehicle that is charged with energy from a clean source, like hydroelectric power, will produce very little pollution, while one charged with energy from an unclean source, like coal or oil, may produce more pollution than an internal combustion engine vehicle. The sources of energy for most regions fall somewhere between these two extremes. The use of electric vehicles will allow new possibilities in pollution control and management that may outweigh some of their potential failings. While not ready to be used everywhere, electric vehicles have the potential to pollute much less than internal combustion engine vehicles
  1. Internal combustion engine vehicles are responsible for the vast majority of pollutants that plague urban areas today.
  2. These emissions are directly responsible for many of the air quality problems faced in major urban areas.
  3. Electric vehicles produce little or no pollution directly; most of the pollution associated with their use is created at the power plant that provides their electricity.
  4. While studies of the pollution-reducing ability of electric vehicles in California are quite favorable, they cannot be applied to the rest of the world as a whole.
  5. We can expect similar results for the United States, namely, that while electric vehicles produce much less carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, they use similar levels of nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, and increased levels of sulfur oxides.
  6. Not all pollutants related to electric vehicles arise from t he generation of electricity.
  7. While electric vehicles may not always hold an outright advantage in terms of pollution reduction, they allow for more control over the pollution that is generated.
  8. The use of electric vehicles would allow even further decreases in auto emissions over time because only about 10,500 power plants will have to be monitored, maintained, and upgraded as opposed to the over 100 million private automobiles.
  9. Because so many tradeoffs in local versus global pollution are involved, it is impossible to say with certainty that electric vehicles provide the best short term solution to transportation related pollution.
Conclusion: At present, for the vast majority of the country, neither electric vehicles or comparable gasoline-powered vehicles holds a solid advantage over the other in cleanliness. This balance will probably not change any time in the near future as the problem with electric vehicles is not inherent to them, but rather to the means by which we generate our electricity. Although electric vehicles offer some compelling advantages over internal combustion engine vehicles in terms of pollution management, the real advantage of electric vehicles lies in the future when more electricity is produced from cleaner sources. For those living in California, or in other regions with a high percentage of energy production coming from clean sources, the future is already here.

Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.
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Edited by: wilkins@mps.ohio-state.edu [August 1997]