Is an Electric Car Really Greener than Gas?

Electric cars are nothing new. They were invented, and in use in the early 20th century. Now, they are being touted as the answer to the pollution caused by their gasoline powered brothers. Granted, there are no emissions from an electric vehicle, but does that fact alone make it the green transportation choice?


An electric car is powered by a rechargeable battery. It can get its juice from household current. The new Nissan Leaf can range approximately 100 miles with a full charge.

The electric vehicle’s popularity has been limited by a number of factors, not the least of which is the fear that they will lose power before the motorist reaches his destination, and there may not be a way to recharge them. Depending on where this happens, a motorist could be stranded in a dangerous situation. In addition, long recharging times have hampered the growth of the electric car’s development and acceptance by the car buying public. It seems that with government incentives, and the threat of global warming, electric vehicles will come into their own in the near future.

The tail pipe emissions of electric cars are non-existent. They make very little noise. Improvements in battery technology are also making them more practical. Recharging times are being substantially cut, and production of electric cars is becoming less expensive. This is the up-side of these vehicles. However, there are other factors to consider.

Although the vehicles themselves are “green” in the sense that they don’t cause as much pollution as the traditional cars, they run on a fuel that has to be produced from less clean sources. Coal, for instance, causes pollution in its own right. Nuclear energy may not pollute the air when it is produced in a safe plant setting. However, it is terribly dangerous if something goes wrong. If there is one thing Cher noble, 3 mile Island and the recent earthquakes in Japan tells us, it is that things can go very, tragically wrong with this source of electricity production. As a society, we have to ask ourselves if this is a chance we are willing to take.

Of course, it must also be considered that oil pollutes both when it is harvested, and when it is pumped into your car’s gas tank. Electricity can be produced using cleaner technology then those discussed above, but wind mills and solar energy only account for a fraction of the electricity we currently use. So, while the cars themselves may be green, the energy they need to run is not, and probably won’t be for a long time. Increasing the demand for electricity will only increase the production of coal and nuclear sources of energy. Eventually, this may change, but until it does, you shouldn’t be in a big hurry to buy one.

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