By: Scarlet Rush
Electric vehicles are currently said to be one of the most savvy ways to decrease a person’s personal carbon footprint. Electric cars run completely on rechargeable batteries unlike the typical gasoline run vehicles. The reason gasoline fueled cars are bad for the environment is due to the two main gases they emit: carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, which in turn causes climate change. Therefore, when electric vehicles came out, there was much push to switch from gas-run vehicles to electric-run vehicles.
However, there has been some debate as to whether electric vehicles really are as green as many believe them to be. It has been questioned whether electric vehicles are “greener” for the environment once emissions from the vehicle manufacturers and electricity generation are taken into account. There have been multiple studies showing results on both sides of the spectrum.
Although electric vehicles do not produce greenhouse gas emissions themselves, they run on electricity, which is still largely produced from fossil fuels around the world. The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that the three human activities that emit the most carbon dioxide are transportation, electricity, and industry. In 2019, 35% of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States was from transportation and in close second with 31% was electricity.
Researchers at a thinktank institute in Germany found that “electric vehicles will barely help cut CO2 emissions in Germany over the coming years.” On the other hand, another study found the opposite conclusion, stating that “emissions from E[lectric] V[ehicle]s have emissions up to 43% lower than diesel vehicles.”
One study from the Universities of Exeter and Cambridge showed that in 95% of the world, driving an electric vehicle is still better for the climate than a regular gas car, even after taking into account the external fossil fuels. The 5% exception is in places around the world that mostly use coal for electricity generation.
Although the electric vehicle may not be as “green” as they are made out to be, a study projects that by 2050, “every second car on the streets of the world could be electric,” thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 gigatons per year. To put that in perspective, that is equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by Russia each year.
Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, recently executed an executive order requiring that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California are to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. It will be interesting to see if other states follow such forceful measures.
After much research, my opinion is this: electric vehicles seem to be “greener” than gas fueled vehicles. By how much? I, and most of the world, are still not certain. However, my belief is that this is a good starting point. Having electric vehicles as a base standard, we can work toward finding more sustainable ways to create energy. Once we can find other, environmentally friendly, ways to create energy, that will seamlessly transfer to electric vehicles.
With this, I’ll leave you with a resolution. A simple solution, although unrealistic, to please both sides of the spectrum. Stop driving any type of vehicle all together.
Scarlet Rush is a 3L at ASU Law. In undergrad, Scarlet majored in Finance. Scarlet joined LJSJ to learn more about how social justice issues and the law intersect.