Are electric cars better for the environment?

Are electric cars greener? 

The short answer is, yes. If you compare them to cars with petrol or diesel engines, electric cars are greener and better for the environment, in a number of ways.  

When you drive a petrol or diesel car, horrible by-products of burning fuel are released into the environment from the exhaust – these are dangerous emissions that are contributing to air quality and the environment. On the other hand, when you drive an electric car you’re not creating any exhaust emissions at all. So the main way electric cars are better for the environment is because there are no emissions from burning fuel.    

Driving an electric car does of course produce some emissions from electricity generation – but you can power your car partly or fully using renewables. Like through solar panels and a smart charger, or by buying your electricity on a 100% green tariff from a green energy supplier. And even if you charge an electric car from a coal or gas plant, the carbon emissions still work out lower than from the petrol or diesel equivalent. 

trees in forest

What about batteries and landfill? 

You might worry about car batteries cluttering up landfill sites or lithium in electric car batteries. The good news is battery tech is now so good that new batteries usually last as long as the car (Tesla, the electric car pioneers, even have a ‘million mile’ battery!). Yes, electric car batteries do degrade but only very gradually and they will still have enough oomph for most people’s needs even when they’ve covered hundreds of thousands of miles. 

In an unlikely scenario where a battery needs replacing, it can usually be used in another way, like powering the National Grid for example. You can rest easy knowing that a car battery goes on being useful for years afterwards before it’s recycled  – and there are lots of companies building up state-of-the-art electric car battery recycling facilities already. Batteries very rarely end up in landfill at all.  

Electric car batteries need lithium, but luckily there is more than enough of this natural resource in the world. There are different ways it can be extracted and here in the UK we’re leading the way in producing lithium from brines in ways that have less environmental impact. 

Other factors

How much carbon can you save with an electric car?

On average, a new petrol or diesel car will produce around 46 tonnes of CO2 from manufacturing, refining fuel and driving 160,000 miles. If you wanted to make up for that amount of CO2, you’d need to plant 100 trees every year for 7 years to balance that out. Which is why electric cars are greener.  
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