Feature

Why green cars aren’t really green

Electric cars “have a dirty little secret”—they’re not as “green” as their owners would like to believe.

Bjorn LomborgThe Wall Street Journal

Electric cars “have a dirty little secret,” said Bjorn Lomborg. They’re not as “green” as their owners would like to believe. Before an electric car leaves the showroom, it has produced 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, mostly in lithium battery production—about 16,000 pounds more CO2 than a conventional car. Electrics need recharging, of course, using electricity powered “overwhelmingly” by fossil fuels. So as owners “cruise around feeling virtuous,” they’re indirectly emitting about six ounces of carbon dioxide per mile—about half as much as a gas-powered car. To emit less overall CO2, the electric car must be driven at least 80,000 miles. But because electrics need frequent recharging, their owners tend to use them only over short distances. So most electric-car owners don’t rack up that much mileage. Even if they did, an electric driven 90,000 miles would emit only 8.7 tons less carbon dioxide than a conventional car. On the European emissions market, credit for 8.7 tons of CO2 costs a mere $48. Here’s the bottom line: Someday, the electric car may replace gas vehicles, “but as a way to tackle global warming now, it does nothing.”

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