How Environmentally Friendly Are EVs?

While electric vehicles do produce fewer emissions compared to gasoline-powered cars, there’s more to the story.

March 26, 2021

EV Charging

WASHINGTON—EVs have been hailed as being better for the environment over their gasoline-powered counterparts. The Wall Street Journal, along with researchers from the University of Toronto, examined whether EVs are better for the environment. “The environmental cost of a car includes both building it and fueling it. That means factoring in emissions associated with oil drilling and power plant smokestacks, as well as from mining metals such as nickel and cobalt that are needed for electric-car batteries,” the newspaper wrote.

A number of nations have announced their intent to ban the sale of new combustion engine cars starting in 2030. And in the U.S., California plans to ban sales of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and trucks by 2035.

Car makers, including Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG, are revamping their business models to focus on electric vehicles. Those changes led FN Media Group to predict 2021 will be a boom year for EV.

So are EVs truly more environmentally friendly? The short answer according to the study is yes, but with some caveats. The study compared “the environmental impact of two popular cars that are best-sellers in their categories: a midsize sedan [Tesla] that runs on electricity and a more lightweight compact SUV [RAV4] that uses gasoline.”

The researchers found that for each mile driven, the Tesla emitted “34% of the emissions associated with making and burning the gasoline consumed in the RAV4 engine. At 20,600 miles, the greenhouse gas emissions from building and driving the two cars are roughly the same, according to the University of Toronto analysis. Then the Tesla pulls ahead.”

As governments are pushing for more electric vehicle sales, the biggest hurdle may be convincing consumers that it’s worth it to switch. While the fueling infrastructure for EVs is growing, and charging stations are becoming more available, particularly in heavily populated areas, an extensive fueling structure is likely needed before consumers will feel completely at ease with the idea of switching over to an EV the next time they go out to purchase a vehicle.

Convenience stores, which sell 80% of the fuel purchased in the United States, will be some of the first to feel the impacts of legislation directed at increasing the sales of EVs. To promote discussion and encourage policymakers to carefully consider the potential implications of a shift on the fuel retailing structure, the Fuels Institute recently released “Policy Considerations: Proposals to Ban the Sale of Combustion Engine Vehicles.”

Looking for more information on electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure needed to support them? Visit NACS’ Electric Vehicles page to get the latest on how to incorporate EV charging into your fuel retailing locations. Additionally, for more information on electric vehicle infrastructure, be sure to check out this Youtube video by the Fuels Institute and NACS.