Electric cars pollute more in production but compensate later

Producing electric cars is more harmful to the environment than traditional cars, but the impact on ecosystems is offset by emitting far less pollution than gasoline or diesel, a European report released today indicates.

The report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) confirms that electric cars are better for the environment and for air quality because they emit much fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants throughout their life cycle compared to petrol or diesel vehicles.

The EEA stresses in the document that the promotion of renewable energy and the circular economy (including shared vehicles or switching to designs that enable reuse and recycling) will help maximize the benefits of switching to electric vehicles.

Dubbed “Electric Vehicles, Life Cycle and Circular Economy Perspectives,” the report examines the impact of electric cars on climate change, air quality, noise and ecosystems, compared to traditional cars.

And he concludes that an electric car, throughout the life cycle, produces fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants than those driven by gasoline or diesel. However, says the document, the electric car pollutes more in the production phase, especially due to the need for extraction and processing of copper, nickel and other key raw materials for batteries.

By comparing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the lifecycle, electric vehicles pollute less 17% to 30% than gasoline or diesel cars. Under the new European environmental policies, life-cycle emissions from a standard electric vehicle are expected to be 73% lower by 2050, according to the EEA accounts.

For local air quality, electric vehicles are naturally better because they do not produce exhaust emissions, even if they pollute in other ways, such as through the tires, it says. It also highlights the benefits in terms of noise pollution.

The Agency says environmental issues can be minimized through a circular economy system that facilitates reuse and recycling, especially electric car batteries.

According to the EEA, greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector have been increasing in the European Union since 2014. Preliminary estimates for 2017 indicate that transport emissions have increased by 28% over 1990 levels.

Transport remains a significant source of air pollution and is the main source of environmental noise in Europe, the document said.

Carbon dioxide emissions from new passenger cars in the European Union increased by 0.4% in 2017, the first time that there has been an increase since 2010. In commercial vehicles, emissions continue to fall.

Records of electric cars increased by 51% in 2017, representing 0.6% of all new registrations in the European Union. In the case of plug-in hybrids, there was a growth of 35%, representing 0.8% of new registrations.

Also in 2017, according to the same source, there was an increase in the sales of gasoline cars compared to gas oil, representing 53%, which happened for the first time since doing this accounting.

The EEA stresses that reducing the consumption of fossil fuels in transport continues to be a challenge, and the use of alternative energy is still far below the 10% target (by 2020). So far only two Member States, Austria and Sweden, have achieved the 10% target.

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