Driving an electric car can give drivers a sense of accomplishment as it gives them a badge of pride. After all, it is the ultimate sign that the driver is thinking about the environment first. At least that is what the marketing departments of electric car makers would have us believe.
A new study, however, warns drivers that electric powered cars may actually have the opposite effect—depending on the source of power. A report which analyzes the life cycle of car emissions presents a rather different picture than the one we have so far seen in the revolutionary concept of gas-less cars. Battery-powered cars recharged with electricity generated by coal-fired power stations are likely to cause more than three times as many deaths from air pollution compared to conventional fuel-driven vehicles.
According to the study, even a battery that is running on the average mix of electrical power can be much more hazardous than the conventional way of using strictly fuel. The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Christopher Tessum, Jason Hill and Julian Marshall of the University of Minnesota. Their estimates showed how levels of fine particle matter and ground-level ozone would change significantly if each of the 11 ways of powering up a car were to be responsible for 10% of the vehicle miles expected to be driven in America in the year 2020.
Julian Marshall stated that “It’s kind of hard to beat gasoline [for the environment]… A lot of the technologies that we think of as being clean… are not better than gasoline.”
It then came as no surprise that electric cars, whose batteries were charged from wind, solar, or hydroelectric sources turned out to be the cleanest. What makes electric cars dangerous to health is if they are recharged by coal. According to the model, this would be the cause of just over 3,000 deaths.
Furthermore, biofuels can cause more health problems than conventional petrol. While the findings that electric cars are much cleaner should come as no surprise, the big shock comes from the fact that it can be dirtier if owners are not careful about their power source. They can be a good bet in countries that have ready access to nuclear power stations, such as France, while it is rather less so in other countries that rely heavily on coal, such as China.