​​​​​​​Written By Suzanne Stougie
When it comes to the health of our planet, ordinary, gas-fueled cars are bad news. They give off greenhouse gases (GhGs), warming up the earth and causing human-made climate change. They damage our food crops ad threaten our health and livelihoods. According to the UN, in the years from 2010 to 2019, an estimated 23.1 million people worldwide were displaced each year due to weather related events. It's a pretty dire situation.
Automobile Exhaust from an ICE Car Photographed by Ruben de Rijcke for Wikimedia Commons
The transportation sector as a whole is the largest culprit when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. All cars, trucks, aircraft, ships, and trains combined account for 27% of the GhGs that are emitted from tailpipes in the US. All this carbon dioxide and methane is causing the so-called greenhouse effect, trapping too much heat in the earth’s atmosphere. The results? Global warming and climate change. Our oceans are turning more acidic, our sea levels are rising, the number and severity of storms, droughts, and floods is up, and animal species are going extinct.

Cars and trucks running on gasoline or diesel do not just expend carbon dioxide though. They also release smog forming emissions, such as nitrogen oxide, non-methane organic gases and carbon monoxide. These gases get trapped much closer to the ground, forming a brown haze (smog) that is polluting our air and is sometimes visible in the summer, hanging over big cities. It's bad for out health, causing serious illnesses such as respiratory infections, heart disease and lung cancer.

Did you know… a typical US passenger car emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year? That’s more than the entire carbon footprint per year of a Swedish person – just from your car.

Within the transportation sector, light duty vehicles (cars, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks) are responsible for 57% of GhG emissions. All passenger vehicle drivers combined therefore are having a major impact on the amount of carbon dioxide this country send up into the air every year.
Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency
But hang on, you might think. Surely, it's not just the fuel that is damaging to our climate? That's true. The carbon footprint of the automobile industry is significant, too. The bigger the car, the more materials are being used – steel, rubber, glass, plastics, paint – and the higher the emissions for creating those materials. There’s the production process, the recycling and disposal of old cars, and the production and distribution of the fuel for our cars that have their impact on the environment. But mostly it is the burning of fuel. It accounts for about 80 or 90 percent of a car's effect on climate. And that's where the EV comes in.

An EV burns no fuel. It has no tailpipe emissions. At all. It's genius.

There are emissions involved in producing an AV, though. The mining of the metals used in the batteries of EVs – cobalt, lithium, and rare earth elements – causes GhG emissions. There's electricity needed to manufacture and assemble EVs. Plus, an EV needs electricity to charge its battery. Generating this electricity may create carbon pollution. But compare the two modes of transport – EV versus gasoline car – and over its lifetime, an EV will emit 64% less carbon dioxide than an ICE car. Opting for an EV is one of the most positive changes you, as an American, can make to help fight climate change.