Electric vehicles environmental impact

As part of a series of stories to help you take charge of climate action, this story on the impact of electric vehicles on the environment and its companion stories Tips on buying an electric vehicle and Insuring your EV or Hybrid aim to help empower your own EV awareness and decisions. 

Taking charge of our carbon footprint

Forest fires swallow neighbourhoods in the B.C. interior. Flooding drowns the prairie landscapes in Manitoba. A fatal spring storm violently rips through Ontario. Climate change is gripping the world and we’re feeling the effects right here at home. However, just as human activity has accelerated it, human activity can slow it down. One way is the adoption of green vehicles that’ll help decelerate pollution and put sustainability into drive. 

Kicking the combustion habit

It’s simple. Humans are pumping too much greenhouse gas (GHG) into the atmosphere. These gas molecules then absorb light and trap heat. This increases the earth’s temperature and dramatically alters weather patterns. There are many culprits like nitrogen and methane. But carbon is the worst offender. According to the United Nations, “The most abundant GHG, accounting for about two-thirds of GHGs, carbon dioxide (CO2), is largely the product of burning fossil fuels.” Which is why your gas-powered vehicle leaves a very long carbon footprint in its tracks. 

Seeing the car in carbon

According to the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S., “A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.” It’s not surprising that transportation accounts for 24% of GHG emissions in Canada. So you can see how replacing gas-powered vehicles with zero-emission vehicles can substantially minimize carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we pump into the atmosphere.

Gas on the grid

Some would argue that we’re just transferring our emissions from individual cars to the grid. However, Canada is the world’s second largest hydroelectric producer. According to Natural Resources Canada, “hydroelectricity accounts for 59.3% of the country’s electricity supply”. That means that the majority of electric vehicles (EVs) would be getting charged up by clean energy. Plus, with the investment and growth in the renewable energy sector, the sun and wind will make green driving even more of a breeze. With that in mind, an important factor of improving vehicle emissions will be a global move to more sustainable energy production. 

A bit of grey in going green

Lithium, the major component of an EV battery, can store large amounts of energy and can continually take a re-charge. However, it must be mined. And mining isn’t the greenest of activities. For example, according to a recent report by the BBC, “In Chile's Atacama Salt Flats, lithium mining has been linked to declining vegetation, hotter daytime temperatures and increasing drought conditions in national reserve areas.” But it must be said that going electric will make us less reliant on mining for oil and gas. In addition, lithium can be recycled, further shrinking the environmental costs when compared to a world fueled by fossils. 

Stepping off the gas to get there faster

Taking on the climate challenge is no easy feat. As a planet, we all need to act quickly on our shared goals of net zero. Replacing gas-powered vehicles for EV and hybrid vehicles is only part of the solution, and a complicated one at that. But it’s one of the ways we can take charge of our carbon footprint.

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