I’m glad you’ve bought an electric vehicle. But your conscience isn’t clean | John Naughton

  • May 6, 2023
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First, you’ve got to drive a long way before you overcome your EV’s embedded carbon debt. And then there’s the trouble with the minerals in its battery…

So you’ve finally taken the plunge and bought an electric vehicle (EV)? Me too. You’re basking in the warm glow that comes from doing one’s bit to save the planet, right? And now you know that smug feeling when you are stuck in a motorway tailback behind a hideous diesel SUV that’s pumping out particulates and noxious gases, but you’re sitting there in peace and quiet and emitting none of the above. And when the traffic finally starts to move again you notice that the fast lane is clear and you want to get ahead of that dratted SUV. So you put your foot down and – whoosh! – you get that pressure in the small of your back that only owners of Porsche 911s used to get. Life’s good, n’est-ce pas?

Er, up to a point. True, there’s nothing noxious coming out of your exhaust pipe, because you don’t have one; and the electric motors that power your wheels certainly don’t burn any fossil fuel. But that doesn’t mean that your carbon footprint is zero. First of all, where did the electricity that charged that big battery of yours come from? If it came from renewable sources, then that’s definitely good for the planet. But in most countries, at least some of that electricity came from non-renewable sources, maybe even – shock, horror! – coal-burning generating stations.

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