Environmental concerns are one of the main reasons people in New Mexico purchase an electric car. With these cars costing more than $40,000, however, it is importnat to know if spending this extra money is really helping the environment. Unlike conventional gas powered vehicles or even hybrids, electric cars produce no emissions, meaning that there is no air pollution caused by the operation of these vehicles. Because no carbon dioxide is being produced by electric cars, the manufacturers of these vehicles are advertising them as having no carbon footprint.
A carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of carbon emitted by the operation, production, transportation, and disposal of an item. Typically, this carbon is emitted in the form of carbon dioxide which is produced as a by-product of many manufacturing and other industrial processes. By contrast, processes that convert carbon dioxide into other gasses have a negative carbon footprint. These processes include a few industrial techniques, but mostly refer to biological phenomena such as plants, fungi, and bacteria which convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
In order to determine the carbon footprint of an electric car, the entire process of manufacturing, transporting, operating, and eventually disposing of the car must be reviewed. The manufacturing process for an electric car is much more complicated than those of conventional cars. The creation of the batteries which are used in electric cars actually use up more energy than the creation of an entire conventional, gas-fueled vehicle. In fact, because of the pollution from the factories that make batteries, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership states that an electric car has a bigger carbon footprint than that of a gas-burning vehicle until it has traveled 80,000 miles.
Next, electric cars must be transported to the dealership the same way gas powered vehicles are. The transportation of these vehicles, therefore, has the same carbon impact as vehicles which are considered less “green”.
Next, the overall operation of the vehicle isn’t necessarily without any emissions. To operate an electric car, the car must use an external power source. In communities where the electricity is supplied from renewable resources, such as wind or solar energy, these cars might have no carbon footprint from their operation. Most cities, however, still use either coal or fossil fuels to create electricity, meaning that the electric car is simply producing pollution in another location.
Finally, when the electric car breaks down for the last time, it will need to be disposed of. Because of the batteries, the special disposal procedures for electric cars are projected to have a larger carbon footprint than traditionally powered vehicles.
Overall, the carbon footprint of an electric car is probably very similar to one of a gas powered vehicle.