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How are electric cars greener than other cars?

Carbon footprint of electric cars | OVO Energy

Sure, hybrids and pure electric cars nail it when it comes to emissions, but what about their carbon footprint (or even wheel print)? And where do all the used batteries go? We explore.

Are electric cars carbon-free?

With their zero emissions, electric cars may seem like the angels of the automobile world, but like pretty much anything we buy these days, they still carry a carbon footprint. It all comes down to the way they’re made, and even how they’re powered1:

  • Manufacturing
    This includes the impact of mining for metals, transporting materials around the world, and making components from plastic and rubber etc.
  • Infrastructure
    This takes into account the environmental impact of factories, car company offices and dealerships.
  • Maintenance
    For instance, replacing and transporting new parts.
  • Power
    Electricity needs to be generated at power stations before it reaches your home or public charging points...

...but there’s good news.
As more and more renewables are added to the national electricity network, the carbon footprint left by ‘power’ will decrease. In future – thanks to technological advances – we can all play a more active part in reducing our carbon footprint, by choosing to charge our electric cars when renewables are at high levels on the network.

Are pure electric cars greener than hybrids?

In a word: yes. On the emissions front, hybrids score far better than traditional cars, but pure electric models are hands down winners with zero emissions2. So if you do end up picking a hybrid over a pure electric car you can rest assured that, when you compare them with air-choking diesel and petrol models, they’re considerably kinder to our planet.

How do electric cars help the environment?

Electric cars don’t really ‘help’ the environment, they just don’t damage it like traditional cars, because they don’t emit carbon dioxide and poisonous gases. In fact, their relative positive impact is huge. The large-scale roll-out of electric cars is vital in aiding efforts to cut carbon emissions and decreasing premature deaths from urban pollution3.

Where do electric car batteries go after use?

Most car batteries are lithium-based and will decay, but only over many years4. The great news is that there are a number of initiatives underway to ensure they’re either reused or recycled, to mitigate the environmental impact of electric car batteries:

  • Recycling batteries
    Investing in an electric car for its ‘green’ credentials? Then you’ll naturally want to ensure that the batteries are disposed of sustainably. A lot of investment and research has gone into recycling electric car batteries. There’s even a growing trend towards “second life” electric car batteries that's seeing them reimagined for stationary storage applications, like powering your home5.
  • Reusing batteries
    Rumour has it that electric cars are being built to last 20, 30 or 40 years, meaning people will end up buying fewer cars in their lifetimes. Great for consumers, but how will car manufacturers still generate sales? And how will the world handle all the disused batteries? One innovative idea involves reimagining used car batteries as home energy storage; a concept that’s been around for years in Japan but has recently filtered its way through to Europe6.

Last year, Nissan launched XStorage, which uses the cells from its Leaf batteries to store energy from people’s own renewable energy sources, like solar panels or small wind turbines.

This technology gives people control over when and how they use their energy. It even allows homeowners generating too much renewable energy to send some back to the national network – redistributing renewables for all, and potentially paving the way for people to sell their own energy.  
You can read more on vehicle to grid technology here.

How can I lower my carbon footprint further?

Already got an EV? Then you’re doing better than most. But ask yourself, does your energy supplier use coal? If so, your carbon footprint won’t be as small as it could be if you were with one like OVO, who’s cut coal from their fuel mix.

Thinking of buying an EV?

We can help you charge your electric car everywhere, for less. Our EV Everywhere tariff is designed specially for owners of electric (and plugin hybrid) cars, and comes with fixed energy prices for two years, 100% renewable energy and free membership of Polar Plus, the UK's biggest EV charging network.


SOURCES:
1. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/08/electric-car-emissions-climate-change
2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/electric-cars-are-not-necessarily-clean/
https://energy.gov/eere/electricvehicles/reducing-pollution-electric-vehicles
3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/05/air-pollution-fears-demand-diesel-cars-fall-fifth
4. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/automobiles/13RECYCLE.html
5. https://www.theengineer.co.uk/charge-the-car-run-the-house/