Eli5: How are electric vehicles more eco friendly gas cars?


I know that gas vehicles produce gasses that pollute the atmosphere and electric vehicles don’t emit anything which is good. But even in the perfect scenario where you’re going from solar, to battery, to car the components are still made of parts that can’t be recycled. The batteries have acids that need to be disposed of somehow. At a large scale wouldn’t all this excess chemical waste be just as much a pollutant than gas vehicle emissions?

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“Just as much a pollutant” is a really vague way to phrase it. Yes the byproducts *are* pollutants, but if our main problem is greenhouse gas emissions, electric cars address that problem. I don’t know enough to speak on how other types of pollution are handled, but that’s a different problem entirely, and one maybe that is less dire and more easily handled than the problem of greenhouse gasses.

> At a large scale wouldn’t all this excess chemical waste be just as much a pollutant than gas vehicle emissions?

The simple answer here is no. Gas cars produce a *lot* of pollution. The “dirtiest” part of an electric car is the battery itself but to start it’s not nearly as bad as what burning gas produces, and electric batteries are recyclable, so a very large portion of it can still be reused. It’s really not even close.

Also, the production of electricity is the second biggest contributor of greenhouse emissions. Struggling to understand this myself.

Source: [https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions](https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions)

Many years ago in college we had a big discourse on this topic. I think when you factor in the pollution created by electric power plants it’s not really a much better solution. Even solar panels are essentially a transitional technology but certainly not a long term solution

You are correct. Electric cars solve one problem (air pollution) by creating another problem (landfill pollution).

Similarly, solar panels solve air pollution by creating heat islands (which changes wind patterns and weather).

Wind turbines solve air pollution by creating barriers to wind currents (which changes wind patterns and weather).

Hydroelectric dams solve air pollution by creating barriers to water currents (which changes humidity, aquafers, and weather).

If you have too much of one thing you get a problem. The solution is to diversify and spread out. We can’t leave all our energy in fossil fuels because we cannot leave all our energy in any one thing, regardless.

The gas car is also made of non-recyclable materials and toxic chemicals. So it isn’t as different as you’re estimating

Studies show that electric cars are a bit worse than gas for the environment at first (exactly for the reasons you list). But it doesn’t take much time driving around for them to make up that deficit and pull ahead.

Most of the components in regular and electric cars ARE recyclable. The plastics and carbon fiber parts maybe not so much, but that’s not a gas/electric issue. Recyclable bioplastics are available so when they aren’t used that’s a choice the mfg has made.

Lead acid battery recycling is very nearly a 99% closed loop. Has been for quite a while. Lithium batts aren’t as recyclable yet mostly because it’s a newer technology. Lithium is expensive so it’s safe to say somebody (probably Toyota or Tesla) will figure it out. Probably sooner rather than later.

Having solar on the roof and an electric vehicle (golf cart) in the driveway is a wonderfull feeling. I used to be able to run to the store, take the kids to school, etc, all w/o increasing global warming. The community I’m in now isn’t really set up for that so I’m back to driving a gas vehicle.

Solar on the roof currently means guilt free AC in the Texas summer, and my 25ish year old vehicles are nice so I have no plans on trading anything in for a newer model. Once gas starts getting scarce, or EV conversions get a little cheaper, I’ll swap in electric drivetrains and be driving emission free again.
Fwiw, an EV conversion for my GM vehicles is 12-15k and about 2 weeks work for a shadetree mechanic like myself.