Why Electric Cars Are Worse Than Gasoline Cars in Every Possible Way

By Nicholas Miano, Assistant Reporter

With the rise of environmentalism, the belief that is concerned with protecting the environment from dangerous human activity, many are looking for an alternative to internal combustion engines for vehicles. It is believed by the public that  internal combustion engines (ICE) are the reasons for most of the pollution today. Some have pointed to a solution to this issue: electric power. Several car manufacturers have already jumped on this bandwagon and pledged to go all electric in a near future. This includes Jaguar  by 2025, Volvo by 2030, and General Motors by 2035. On the surface, this seems like a positive alternative. Sure, electric vehicles (EVs) do not pollute when they driven. But on a deeper level, EVs are actually worse for the environment and create a whole new set of problems for the future.

The manufacturing of Electric Cars

The manufacturing of EVs causes more pollution than the manufacturing of an ICE vehicle.  This may seem as a shock to some.  After all, the only component in an electric car is just the battery, so how can it pollute more than the production of an ICE vehicle? The answer is in the question. The manufacturing of batteries emits more carbon dioxide (CO2) than the assembly of an ICE vehicle, which is due to the battery consists of many rare earth metals.

These metals, such as lithium and cobalt, are needed since EVs operate on power trained batteries, and these batteries are bigger than the ones found in an ICE car vehicle since they are needed to power  all of the components in the vehicle. Massive mining operations are needed, resulting  in both environmental and humanitarian issues. Approximately 130,000 tons of land is mined every year for the purpose of battery mining, since operations are spread over several continents. For instance, most of the lithium is mined in the countries of Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia. Lithium mining contaminates the soil and water in these countries, causing the problem of unsafe drinking water. Since lithium mining needs water to function, water supplies have been taken away from local farmers, causing agricultural production to decline in these countries.  Another metal used is cobalt. Nearly three quarters of all the cobalt in the world comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Mines operating in the DRC use child labor, nearly 40,000 children a day, to obtain cobalt. Sadly, these numbers might continue to rise. One cobalt supplier, Gleneore, has signed many deals with different companies. One of these big deals being with SK Innovations (a Korean company) which has agreed to purchase 30,000 tons of cobalt, enough to power two million EVs .

These metals are later processed into batteries and are installed into an EV. In the end of the manufacturing process, 19.2 tons of pollution is produced when a single EV is built. To put this into perspective, a ICE vehicle pollutes about five tons a single year, so it takes almost four years of driving a ICE vehicle to equal the pollution of the manufacturing of a single EV. In a broader perspective, an average ICE vehicle will pollute 49 tons during a lifespan of 166,000 miles. So, an EV during manufacturing will pollute almost a third of the average lifetime of an internal combustion engine. Although EVs may seem like clean vehicles, their manufacturing process creates many new humanitarian and environmental problems.

Efficiency-Gasoline V. Electricity

To determine the efficiency of an ICE vehicle or an EV, a closer look at their fuel is needed. For starters, gasoline and electricity have been selected as fuel sources do to both consisting of high amounts of energy, which is known as energy density. The energy density between the two vary. According to Fuel Economony.gov, one gallon of gasoline consists of 33.7 KWH (kilowatt of energy). To put this into perspective, a 33.7 KWH battery would weigh about 475 lbs. However, gasoline does have greater energy loss than electricity due to losses in the different parts of the engine. For example, gasoline will experience a loss of 68-72% of energy in the engine alone, while electric will only experience 10% of energy loss.

This may seem as a win for EVs, but there are some things that need to be taken into perspective. Most EVs have a range of around 300 miles in “standard conditions”. These are several common factors that will lower the range of an EV.  One of these factors is the weather. Cold weather, in particular will lower the range of an EV. A study done by the Idaho National Lab discovered that an EV in freezing temperatures will loose 25% of its range. Furthermore, they concluded that charging an EV in these freezing temperatures will be 35% less effective than charging it on a comfortable day of 77 degrees. Also, using the air condition in a EV for an extended period of time, like in the summer, will cause the range of the vehicle to fall. Why? Unlike ICE vehicles that have many separate components to heat and cool the cabin, EVs only have the power trained batteries. When using the air conditioner in the vehicle, power is used from the batteries to operate it, taking away power to the wheels and thus lowering the range.

Another area to look at is the life expectancy of EVs. The sources vary on this topic. Some say an EV is about eight years, while other sources say about 100,000 miles. Nevertheless, this is still significantly lower than an ICE vehicle, which is roughly 200,000 miles, or about ten years. The reason EVs are lower is because the batteries become worn out and cannot perform as well. Electricity does not provide a more efficient source of power than gasoline.

Cost of Electricity

As prices at the pump continue to increase, it may seem like a good idea to switch over to an EV. However, owning an EV will still cost a pretty penny. Since EVs are powered by electricity, electric chargers are needed. Many public charging station have been appearing across the country in recent years. These public charging stations have prices that often vary widely from each other, with most having prices that are higher than filling a ICE vehicle with reasonable millage. Most chargers at these public stations are unreliable as well, with some only taking a half hour to charge up to 80%, while others take hours to reach this level. Due to factors, many EV owners decided to have a residential charger at their home instead of traveling to public charging stations.

Having an EV means a residential charger should be owned at home. There are two types of chargers, a Level 1 charger and a  level 2 charger. The Level 1 charger, costing around $600, uses 120 volts of electricity to charge an EV, taking a minimum of 20 hours to fully charge. The Level 2 charger, since it needs to be professionally installed, costs around $1,600. It can produce 240 volts and charge in a matter of a few hours. Residential charging is expensive and very time consuming.

Electricity charging actually costs more than refilling an ICE vehicle with gasoline. To drive a hundred miles, it would cost an mid price ICE vehicle with 33 miles/gallon $8.58, with gasoline prices at $2.81 a gallon. In comparison, an mid-price EV (such as a Nissan Leaf), would cost $12.95. In a broader perspective, putting 12,000 a year on a mid price ICE vehicle would cost $1,030, while a mid-price EV with the same miles would cost $1,554. While gas prices continue to rise, EVs do not provide a cheaper solution.

Hazards presented by Electricity 

This section will be covering two subjects: hazards during an EV’s life and its afterlife. Many people believe that EVs are safer since they don’t have a combustion engine and therefore cannot have fires or explode. Actually, EVs are just as deadly because of the electricity. Electrocution and electric fires (that cannot be put out by water, mind you) can occur, which can cause severe harm to the people inside and the first responders. For example, Grand Tour host Richard Hammond was racing the electric RIMAC concept One and crashed, resulting in a massive fire and him being airlifted to a nearby hospital. Luckily, he was able to survive the crash. Electricity, rather than being safer, still provides the same dangers as internal combustion engines.

A larger hazard awaits on the horizon. That is, what to do with the dead batteries. Car companies are starting to realize this issue, and are aiming to recycle them, with the goal of retrieving the lithium and the cobalt. This presents a major problem, as material scientist Dana Thompsons says, “Current EV batteries are not meant to be recycled”. If not recycled, most EV batteries will end up in landfills, releasing toxicants and heavy metals into the soil, creating some serious environmental problems. With an expected 145 million EVs on the road by 2030, this problem is only going to become worse.


 The idea of EVs replacing ICE vehicles may seem like a better alternative on the surface, but in reality, a whole new world of problems awaits. The environmental arguments for EVs is flawed due to the manufacturing process and the afterlife of the batteries. Besides, both EVs and ICE vehicles rely on oil for manufacturing, so switching to electricity is not avoiding a problem, but just running to another. Electricity is still an expensive fuel source and is only more efficient than gasoline in ideal conditions, which are hard to come by in most areas. Also, EVs are not a safer alternative because they are could be prone to electric fires and electrocution. Understanding these principles, EVs are not a better alternative to ICE vehicles and therefore should not replace them.

So, what could be an alternative? An alternative for gasoline and electricity could be synthetic fuels. Scientists employed in Formula One are currently researching and developing fuels that have zero emissions. This will take some years to finalize. Maybe in the future some solution will be discovered, but for now, it is probably wiser to stick with an ICE vehicle.


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