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Electric cars and vans

How green are electric vehicles?

Rising concerns over the climate emergency has encouraged the decarbonisation of our transport networks. This has led to rapid growth in electric vehicles (EVs) in recent years.

But how green are EVs compared to traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles such as diesel and petrol vehicles? 

Electricity vs fuel

EVs have zero tailpipe emissions. This means there is no exhaust emitting CO2, NOx or particulates. ICE vehicles such as diesel and petrol ones emit all of these into the atmosphere. This contributes to climate change and poor local air quality.  

EVs run on electricity, and there are still CO2 emissions associated with electricity generation. 

The amount of emissions depends on how the electricity is generated. For example, generating electricity from burning natural gas produces more emissions than generating electricity from renewable wind power.

So, for every unit of electricity an EV uses, there are CO2 emissions associated with it. But these emissions are still much lower than those from an ICE vehicle. 

One way to reduce these emissions is to charge your EV at night when less fossil fuels are used to generate electricity.

As the UK energy grid continues to decarbonise, the associated emissions from EVs will lower. 

The materials used in making an electric battery 

Most of the emissions that come from an EV are from the manufacturing of electric batteries.

Electric batteries use rare metals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt, which are non-renewable. Current mining techniques are also often carbon-intensive. However, there’s a carbon footprint associated with the manufacturing of all vehicles and products. 

Watch our short video below to learn more. 

Recycling electric batteries

While around 80% of electric batteries are fully recyclable, there are parts of the battery that are difficult to recycle.  

There’s lots of research into the efficient recycling of electric batteries. As the EV market grows and vehicles start to reach the end of their life, recyclability and environmental credentials will have to improve.  

Watch our short video below to learn more. 

Last updated: 21 March 2023