Are Electric Cars Really Green?

COMMENTARY | Electric cars seem to be the wave to the future. More and more car makers are rolling out electric car models, including the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt. Although the science behind electric cars is incredibly intricate and complex, the concept is easy to understand.

Instead of running by burning gasoline in the engine, electric cars use energy stored in rechargeable batteries. These types of cars are praised because, unlike gas-burning cars, they don’t produce any emissions that can be harmful to both human health and environmental health, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. All of these types of pollution can cause serious problems and even add to the heavy smog that sits hovering about large cities on warm days.

Electric cars are praised for being able to battle smog and pollution problems since they do not give off any emissions. But while electric cars don’t directly produce any emissions, they still pose a major problem in terms of pollution. Electric cars rely on electricity production and if that electricity production isn’t being produced from green sources (including wind, hydro, geothermal, etc.), then it could actually be doing more harm than good.

Coal plants are extremely common throughout the United States and many states still rely on coal power to meet a large portion of their electric needs. If more electric cars hit the roads, then they will require an increase in electricity production to charge the batteries. In many cases, states may resort to increased coal production since they already utilize their coal-powered plants to begin with. Coal plants alone are a major contributor to widespread pollution problems.

But until the type of energy production is made green, electric cars will continue to utilize coal powered plants. In order to make electric cars truly green and emission free, states will need to keep up with establishing and building green power plants, including the increasingly popular and viable option of wind power. If states can keep pace with electric cars by building more renewable energy power plants, then electric cars will certainly pave the way to a clean and green future.

Rachel Krech provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. As a college student from the Chicago suburbs pursuing two science degrees, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.