Lots of Gray in their Green
Electric vehicles are falsely advertised as “better for the environment” based on one fact alone: they emit no greenhouse gases during driving. Big car companies benefit hugely from the “half-truth” nature of this characterization, and the media do nothing to dispute it. The sad truth is that making their massive batteries is hugely polluting. And until the electricity they spend can be produced cleanly, they still depend on coal or natural gas produced by fracking. When the final calculations are done, EVs may be even worse for the planet than gasoline vehicles, at least for now.
The media likes to play into this false reality of electric cars being less environmentally harmful as a marketing tactic to convince the average consumer to make the switch. The same information has been advertised since the being of the electric car movement almost 20 years ago. Since then, new information has been collected about how clean electric cars actually are. However, there is no media coverage on these new findings, as it may steer a potential customer away from purchasing. Despite what big companies say, electric cars are not completely clean and are still responsible for CO2 emissions.
The idea that electric cars are better for the environment because they do not rely on gas burning is a viable argument to make. For years car companies have been pushing the narrative that electric cars are the future and everyone needs to switch over as a way to reduce air pollutants. This is the story in many Americans’ heads, as it is the only side we have been exposed to. Most potential EV customers are attracted primarily to the “green claims,” explicit and implicit, in the carmakers’ promotions.
But when the other side is considered, one can clearly see that the big car companies are leaving out vital information about their products. While yes electric cars are decidedly better for the environment in just one way than traditional gas-powered ones, as there is no CO2 emitted from their tailpipes, there are still pollutants produced by the manufacture and operation of every electric vehicle, just maybe not in the same way. The Alternative Fuels Data Center, created by the U.S. Department of Energy, states that “all-electric vehicles and PHEVs running only on electricity have zero tailpipe emissions, but electricity production, such as power plants, may generate emissions.” Car manufacturers never mention energy production as it goes against their main claim.
Major carmaker KIA, to keep pace with competitors, has recently entered the EV marketplace. As a major car company, KIA is responsible for letting its customers know how clean their new EVs are. The KIA website has a section titled “Are Electric Cars Better?” which gives prospective customers frequently asked questions about their vehicles. The entire page relays nothing but information in favor of EVs and never mentions the environmental costs of EV production and operation. KIA claims that EVs “produce no or fewer tailpipe emissions than internal combustion engine cars. Gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles have been blamed as one of the major culprits for air pollution.” While this is true, the next part of the article claims, “using renewable energy for charging an electric car can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions even further.”
As a prospective customer reading this article, I assume that KIAs electric vehicles release no emissions, and when renewable energy is used for charging, those emissions decrease even more. They first make the claim that their cars do not release tailpipe emissions, then go on to say how using sustainable sources for energy can “contribute to reducing CO2 emissions even further.” It is never mentioned how EVs are responsible for CO2 emissions. The points contradict each other as one says no emissions are released, and the other says emissions can be reduced. KIA should make all the evidence available to the customer and state that the electricity needed to charge the batteries is what is creating the pollutants.
While many EV purchasers do their research on which model is best for them, they often need to research the amount of emissions that model will produce. The common misconception regarding EVs that is almost always overlooked is where the energy for charging comes from.
We don’t know for sure, but EVs might produce more CO2 emissions per mile. It’s certainly possible. A coal plant might have to emit a massive amount of carbon (and other pollutants) to produce enough electricity to power an EV for one mile (especially after so much of the electricity is lost in the transmission lines from the plant to the car) than a gas-powered car emits to drive the same mile.
Depending on the area in which you live, the energy used for charging is only sometimes clean. In the most recent breakdown of Electricity Generation by State, the primary energy source per state is very diverse. In states like Arkansas, Colorado, and Florida, their primary energy sources are coal and natural gas. These are the most common energy sources that also create the most fumes. In states that rely on non-renewable energy, the energy at an EV charging station would be produced using fossil fuels. This goes against the entire point of EVs not contributing to air pollution.
In contrast, in states such as Maine, Oregon, and Vermont, the primary energy source comes from renewable sources like hydroelectric and solar. Electric cars in places where renewable energy is the primary source will have a chance of being completely free of all emissions at the tailpipe, but may still be less green than gasoline vehicles when the entire lifespan of the vehicle is calculated as a cost per mile.
People need to understand the many components of the energy used during the lifespan of an electric vehicle. It is not simply no there are zero emissions connected with electric cars, as so many people tend to think. Electric vehicle companies only tell their customers the positive sides of owning an EV and how zero tailpipe emissions are coming from it. They tend to withhold that the energy needed to power the car has to come from somewhere else, which may be from a fossil fuel power plant, and is how EVs contribute to air pollutants.
Alternative Fuels Data Center: Emissions from Electric Vehicles. (n.d.). Alternative Fuels Data Center. Retrieved November 21, 2022, from https://afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.html
Are electric cars better? (n.d.). Kia. Retrieved November 21, 2022, from https://www.kia.com/dm/discover-kia/ask/are-electric-cars-better.html
Electricity Generation by State | November 2022. (n.d.). Choose Energy. Retrieved November 21, 2022, from https://www.chooseenergy.com/data-center/electricity-sources-by-state/
21 posts are in the queue ahead of you for Feedback, Cinderella.
My practice is to work first on those for which the authors have requested specific advice or with whom I’m having an ongoing feedback conversation.
I’ve added an asterisk before the name of your post to indicate that I’ve taken it out of Feedback Please waiting for your Reply.
I would like some feedback on if my counterargument is made clear and if I shot it down enough to make my point look correct.
Thanks for the instructions! I’ll get on it.
—I don’t see the value of all the “back-and-forthing,” Cinderella.
—You actually start by saying “there is no doubt about the benefits of owning one.”
—Are the media deliberately lying to the public to benefit EV manufacturers?
—Unless you’re going to make a big deal about when new evidence was uncovered, you’re making a false promise here.
—You asked for advice about making a clear counterargument, so let’s start here.
—Make bold promises you can keep.
—See the difference?
—Always push forward.
—Your last sentence, though true, postulates something ludicrous.
—Try: Most potential EV customers are attracted primarily to the “green claims,” explicit and implicit, in the carmakers’ promotions.
—You want clear rebuttals. The CAPITALIZED changes are all necessary to accomplish that.
—Doesn’t need a paragraph. The content is one sentence:
—”Major carmaker KIA, to keep pace with competitors, has recently entered the EV marketplace.”
—I’m SO GLAD you found an actual Worthy Opponent, Cinderella. Kia has found a way to tell the truth without telling the Whole Truth, and you caught them at it.
—We don’t know for sure (I’ve never seen good data either way), but EVs MIGHT produce MORE CO2 emissions per mile. It’s certainly possible. A coal plant might have to emit a massive amount of carbon (and other pollutants) to produce enough electricity to power an EV for one mile (especially after SO MUCH of the electricity is lost in the transmission lines from the plant to the car) than a gas-powered car emits to drive the same mile.
—You’re allowed to plant that doubt in your readers’ minds even without finding the evidence. KIA surely knows the answer even if they’re not sharing it. You can challenge them to disprove your speculative claim if they have the goods. They’re clearly aware of the problem of how the electricity is generated, or they wouldn’t have mentioned the “added benefit” of getting electricity sustainably.
—For them to contradict one another, you’ll have to state them clearly. I believe I’ve pointed out the essential contradiction above.
—I don’t understand your confusion about “the amount of emissions,” Cinderella. The AFDC, in your quote above, settled that matter, didn’t they? “all-electric vehicles and PHEVs running only on electricity have zero tailpipe emissions.”
—So, you need to clarify always between “tailpipe emissions” and the “total amount of pollution from all sources” that are needed to drive one mile. That would be the fairest comparison between gasoline vehicles and EVs.
—Don’t give this away if you agree with the scenario I presented above, that “we don’t know for sure” whether they’re better overall environmentally or not. You haven’t even begun to factor in the huge pollution costs of mining lithium for the batteries!
—Coal pushes out a lot more than just CO2. And natural gas is produced by fracking, which has its own set of devastating environmental consequences NOBODY would characterize as green.
—But, besides that HOORAY for you naming this obvious rebuttal claim! State-by-state comparisons are brilliant!
—You can save your challenge to the carmakers for this concluding paragraph if you like. It would be quite powerful to charge that they’re lying and lay it back on them to disprove your claims.
I hope that was helpful, Cinderella, and that you’ll take the time to make improvements. Provisionally graded. This post is always eligible for a Regrade following significant Revision.
I’m hoping for revisions to your Rebuttal Rewrite here, Cinderella, before I grade your Research Paper. Will you be exporting improvements to the long paper soon? It could use some help in this rebuttal section.
Hopefully I am not too late, but I made the changes you suggested and fixed a few other things.
Wow. So much better.
Your overall grade just crossed an important threshold. You can stop revising now if you’re satisfied.