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delta77's avatar

The movement towards electric cars is great, but is it really cleaner?

Asked by delta77 (196points) February 16th, 2010

From what I understand, electricity is generated from coals, correct? And coal power is dirty, so if we have more electric cars as opposed to gas-powered cars, won’t we have more pollution as a result?

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4 Answers

Harp's avatar

Yes, even if all of the electricity came from coal (as opposed to hydroelectric, nuclear, wind or natural gas), there would still be about a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions. (source)

lilikoi's avatar

The critical point is that while electricity comes from “dirty” sources currently, this is not necessarily how it will always be done. Using electric cars centralizes the pollution – rather than millions of individual exhaust systems releasing crap to the environment, they draw electricity from the grid and the exhaust is centralized at the power plant. It is much easier to control emissions at one source rather than many. Further, if technology advances it will be much easier to upgrade the power plant to make electricity from a cleaner means (solar for example). There would be no difference to the end-user (you and me) as we would still get our electricity, but the mechanism for creating it would be much cleaner. This is much more efficient than replacing millions of cars every time a technological advancement is made.

The downside is that whenever you centralize any system, you also centralize the power (control) associated with that system. You could hypothesize that one possibility of a centralized transportation system is that the one in control could shut off the power on a whim, Minority Report style.

jerv's avatar

I think that Saving money, oil, and the environment is a great article to read if you want a nice, detailed answer. Unfortunately, the salient points are too many and too wordy for me to bother copy/pasting; you have to just read the article.

mattbrowne's avatar

Two issues here
– source of electricity (from renewable energies)
– manufacturing and recycling of batteries

But engineers will only be able to improve their products if we make use of them now. Same for economy of scale effects driving down costs. We need to install photovoltaics and wind turbines now.

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