Electric Car Manufacturing's Massive Carbon Footprint

The U.S. government has pumped $5.5 billion in federal grants and loans into manufacturing and promoting electric cars and batteries. But research by Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus Center finds that a typical electric car driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime emits more carbon-dioxide than a similar-size gas-powered car driven the same distance.

The reason: manufacturing electric cars, which involves mining for lithium, produces over twice the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions (30,000 pounds for an electric car versus 14,000 for a conventional vehicle) as gas-powered cars.

Lomborg says electric cars would have to be driven “a lot” to “get ahead environmentally,” and that is only if the driver somehow avoids coal-powered electricity. Even then, says Lomborg, the gains would be minimal. 

Even if the electric car is driven for 90,000 miles and the owner stays away from coal-powered electricity, the car will cause just 24% less carbon-dioxide emission than its gas-powered cousin….Over its entire lifetime, the electric car will be responsible for 8.7 tons of carbon dioxide less than the average conventional car.

Those 8.7 tons may sound like a considerable amount, but it's not…An optimistic assessment of the avoided carbon-dioxide associated with an electric car will allow the owner to spare the world about $44 in climate damage.

Last month, the “father of the Prius,” Takeshi Uchiyamada declared that electric cars were simply “not viable.” "Because of its shortcomings--driving range, cost and recharging time--the electric vehicle is not a viable replacement for most conventional cars," said Uchiyamada. "We need something entirely new."

President Barack Obama previously promised to put one million electric cars on American roads by 2015, a statement Obama’s Energy Department has since quietly walked back. 

"Whether we meet that goal in 2015 or 2016, that's less important than that we're on the right path to get many millions of these vehicles on the road," said an Energy Department official.

Last year, electric car sales totaled just 50,000 units. 

According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal policies to prop up and promote electric cars will cost taxpayers $7.5 billion through 2019.


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