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
- Internal combustion engine vehicles are responsible for the vast
majority of pollutants that plague urban areas today.
- These emissions are directly responsible for many of the air
quality problems faced in major urban areas.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Not all pollutants related to electric vehicles arise from t he
generation of electricity.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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: email@example.com [August 1997]