October 5, 2012 5:12 PM
As the old saying goes, “Some things are not as they
A douglas fir is actually a pine. A lead pencil is made with
graphite. And a horned toad is really a lizard.
Now, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, ranked
consistently among the world’s top 400 academic institutions,
says electric cars may not be as green as many believe them to
Researchers examined the production, duty cycles and post-service
impact of the battery-driven “miracles on wheels” that
have so beguiled opinion leaders and policy makers.
The findings, as reported by the BBC, warn not only that the
environmental benefit of EVs is highly contingent on power
generation, but also that these blue-sky rides are a
“threat” the planet’s well-being.
From the invasive nickel- and copper-mining required to produce
their enormous batteries, to the murky prospect of disposing of
same when the vehicle is eventually junked, “the
global-warming potential” of EVs is about twice that of
conventional vehicles,” the study says.
And what about the dirty business that happens in between? Hold
your nose, research suggests.
If the electricity that charges an EV’s battery can trace its
origins to fossil fuels, there are serious mitigating effects. An
EV stoked by juice squeezed from coal performs only 14% better than
a vehicle that runs on gasoline.
And compared with a vehicle powered by today’s clean diesel
fuel, an EV’s big-picture benefits are
Meanwhile, the Union of Concerned Scientists has said the U.S. gets
54% of its electricity from coal-fired power plants.
And against this backdrop, the environmental-protection legislation
threatens auto makers with strict penalties if they fail to sell
prescribed numbers of EVs.
Say the Norwegian researchers: “The many potential advantages
of electric vehicle should serve as motivation for cleaning up
regional electricity mixes.”
Which brings to mind another old saying: “Never put the cart
before the horse.”