Do Electric Vehicles Really Make Earth “Greener?”

Tesla Model S

Picking up the new Tesla

As mankind continues to consume its supply of fossil fuels, brilliant auto engineers from around the world are constantly researching and developing new ways to increase transportation efficiency. They have managed to convince society that hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) are the way of the future. As of right now, there are 19 car manufacturers offering hybrid or EV cars with gas mileage numbers ranging from 20mpg-119mpg. To many, this is absolutely astonishing. And in all honesty, I was also once astonished as well.

Last year, my mom purchased a Metallic Green Tesla Model S with a beige leather interior. When I first saw the car, I thought it was absolutely magnificent. Everything about the car looked exactly as it had in the magazine. I couldn’t resist telling all of my friends about her new car. My mom felt similarly, telling everyone she knew about her new “baby.” She not only discussed its quality of craftsmanship and performance, but she also informed people about how the purchase had changed her into an eco-friendly advocate.

I had always just gone along with her “we are now one step closer to creating a sustainable world” speech; however, after reading various articles about the manufacturing process of Teslas and other hybrid/EV vehicles, my view changed.

The hybrid and electric vehicles of today primarily use a nickel metal hydride batteries. And although these batteries have proven to hold a decent electrical charge, they are just plain harmful to the environment. The process of creating this battery begins when the nickel is mined and smelted in Sudbury, Ontario. From there, the smelted nickel is shipped to Wales, where it undergoes a refinement process. After this refinement process, it is sent to China to be made into nickel foam. Then it is sent to Japan, where it is finally made into a battery. Whew! That was a long list of destinations.

People often overlook the fact that the obscene amount of fossil fuel consumed in making nickel metal hydride batteries heavily outweighs the benefits of an “eco-friendly” car. In essence, one is better off keeping their fuel-burning car instead of purchasing a hybrid or electrical vehicle.

With that said, I urge you to not only reconsider purchasing hybrid/electric vehicles, but to also think about where your purchased goods are coming from. What does “Made in [Insert Country]” really mean? Was the product fully manufactured there? Or was is only assembled in that country? If society is to act in a more sustainable manner, it must become more educated about the processes involved in “satiating” modern-day materialism.


7 thoughts on “Do Electric Vehicles Really Make Earth “Greener?”

  1. I’m really happy you wrote about this! I’ve always been very interested in environmental issues and have started to learn a little bit about these types of cars, but I wasn’t aware of these issues. It’s clear that we need to do more research when we make purchases if we want to shop wisely. (This is definitely something I’m learning with the vegan thing.) Another interesting endeavor in the transportation industry are flex fuel cars. These cars can use gasoline that is composed of up to 85% ethanol. This ethanol is made from corn rather than fossil fuels. This seems like a great idea because of course we can grow corn more quickly and easily than extracting fossil fuels. However, this has immense repercussions in the agriculture industry. It seems there are always negative inputs or outputs to the products we buy and use. The only way we combat these issues is by doing our research.

  2. Wow, I am shocked about this. I have never given much thought to electric cars just because my family does not own one, but with all the hype, I always assumed they would be better for the environment. I cannot believe that the auto industry would market them as these more environmentally friendly cars if it is just not true. I am very happy you wrote about this because otherwise I would still be oblivious. This just makes me wonder how many other “environmentally friendly” trends are not as safe for the environment as they claim to be. I agree with Michaela that researching new purchases is definitely very important, especially with products that claim to be safer than their competition.

  3. I think your idea make sense. Most consumers over the world only concerned about how new technologies saved their own money and how they work out “green” in usage. However, not much investigations and understanding were given to the energy consumed behind the green industries. The good thing is, companies like Tesla have been trying to work on this problem, so that people may actually have green energy in the future.

  4. This was also surprising to me. When I think of hybrid cars I think of how they save on fuel, rather than the process of how they are made. After listening to the long process that goes into making these hybrid vehicles it really makes you think whether or not it is actually good for the environment. With this being said I think the next step is to determining the life of the battery to determine whether or not they are actually more effeinct. Other than some of Tesla’s models I never been too much of a fan of hybrid cars for there lack of masculinity, but for now looks like I have other reasons than lack of masculinity for why they are not so great.

  5. What did your mom say when she learned you had turned on baby?

    The founder of Tesla would say that something like their cars are a necessary transition away from fossil fuels, wouldn’t he? If the pure consumer-indulgence-sex appeal of Teslas creates demand that eventually leads to market-driven innovation which is a net gain for the environment, does that justify it?

  6. By the way, the one source for the SF Gate article is a 2007 study by the National Center for Policy Analysis. Who are they? They say their mission is to seek to solutions that are only market-based.

    From their about page:

    “Our goal is to develop and promote private, free-market alternatives to government regulation and control, solving problems by relying on the strength of the competitive, entrepreneurial
    private sector.

    We bring together the best and brightest minds to tackle the country’s most difficult public policy problems — in health care, taxes, retirement, education, energy and the environment. In doing so, we propose reforms that liberate consumers, workers, entrepreneurs and the power of the marketplace. ”

    What does this mean to you?

    Is their report the end of the discussion?

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