By Nicole Rivard
The prospect of buying a new car can be exciting.
But some consumers are still reeling from the post-pandemic spike in inflation, so it’s no wonder they want to put off car buying as long as they can. Next to a home or college education, a car is one of the most expensive purchases one can make.
If you’re currently in the market for a new vehicle, your search has likely produced some sticker shock, as the average cost of a new car is now a record $47,000, according to Kelly Blue Book.
The good news is these days it is easier to put off buying a new car, because the average age of all cars on the road is 11 years, and many newer cars will provide trouble-free service for 200,000 miles or more with care.
But even if a car runs well, rust or collision damage can make it structurally unsound, making a new purchase inevitable.
For Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral, the latter forced her to get a new car—a driver in a pickup truck slammed into her 2012 Volkswagen and totaled her car.
The upshot of the collision was Feral decided to replace her old car with an electric vehicle. It was something she had been wanting to do since FoA—in addition to placing wildlife and critical habitat protection at the core of its mission—also addresses the biggest contributors to climate change caused by human activity: deforestation, animal agriculture and fossil fuels.
Driving into the climate crisis
In the United States, the transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions at 28 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The majority of GHG emissions from transportation are carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the combustion of petroleum-based products like gasoline and diesel fuel in internal combustion engines. Emissions from transportation primarily come from cars, trucks, ships, trains and planes. Over 94% of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum-based.
With Earth Day approaching on April 22, you might be considering ways to help the environment and combat the climate crisis. Switching to an electric car is one way to do so.
Be aware that on April 18 the IRS released an updated list of cars that will qualify for a $7,500 tax credit under thew new battery guidelines on FuelEconomy.gov. Overall, General Motors and other U.S. auto makers stand to benefit the most from the revamped rules. Several of the most popular models — like the Tesla Model Y and Chevy Bolt — will still get the full $7,500. But a half dozen models will get a $3,750 credit instead, and vehicles including the VW ID.4, Nissan Leaf and Rivians will lose the credit altogether.
The changes in the tax credit are meant to boost U.S.-based production and have to do with the sourcing of the materials that go into the batteries of the vehicles.
You will have to confirm at the time you purchase the vehicle whether it qualifies.
Feral decided on VW ID4 because it can easily be charged at home with an EV Wallbox charger, which she had installed, and owners enjoy three years unlimited 30-minute charging sessions at Electrify America DC Fast Chargers wherever they are located.
“We feel ahead of the curve no longer investing in a gasoline-powered car that will last a decade or more,” Feral said. “Gasoline-powered cars emit carbon dioxide—there’s no way around it. It feels gratifying to be done dragging our feet on how to limit our role in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions when we are facing a climate crisis.”
She admits it’s frustrating when people continue to drag up old data to perpetuate myths and find fault with electric vehicles as an excuse not to make a positive change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.
Here we compile and bust the biggest myths about EVs thanks to the EPA, as well as the most recent studies/media reports:
Myth #1: Electric vehicles are worse for the climate than gasoline cars because of the power plant emissions.
FACT: Electric vehicles typically have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline cars, even when accounting for the electricity used for charging.
EVs have no tailpipe emissions. Generating the electricity used to charge EVs, however, may create carbon pollution. But the amount varies widely based on how local power is generated, e.g., using coal or natural gas, which emit carbon pollution, versus renewable resources like wind or solar, which do not. Even accounting for these electricity emissions, research shows that an EV is typically responsible for lower levels of greenhouse gases than an average gasoline-powered car. To the extent that more renewable energy sources like wind and solar are used to generate electricity, the total GHGs associated with EVs could be even lower. (In 2020, renewables became the second-most prevalent U.S. electricity source. Learn more about electricity production in your area by visiting EPA’s Power Profiler interactive web page. By simply inputting your zip code, you can find the energy mix in your region.
EPA and Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Beyond Tailpipe Emissions Calculator can help you estimate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with charging and driving an EV or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) where you live. You can select an EV or PHEV model and type in your zip code to see the CO2 emissions and how they stack up against those associated with a gasoline car.
Myth #2: Electric vehicles are worse for the climate than gasoline cars because of battery manufacturing.
FACT: The greenhouse gas emissions associated with an electric vehicle over its lifetime are typically lower than those from an average gasoline-powered vehicle, even when accounting for manufacturing.
Some studies have shown that making a typical EV can create more carbon pollution than making a gasoline car. This is because of the additional energy required to manufacture an EV’s battery. Still, over the lifetime of the vehicle, total GHG emissions associated with manufacturing, charging and driving an EV are typically lower than the total GHGs associated with a gasoline car. That’s because EVs have zero tailpipe emissions and are typically responsible for significantly fewer GHGs during operation.
A 2021 study from the International Council on Clean Transportation show battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have by far the lowest life-cycle GHG emissions. Emissions over the lifetime of average medium-size BEVs registered today are already lower than comparable gasoline cars by 66%–69% in Europe, 60%–68% in the United States, 37%–45% in China, and 19%–34% in India. Additionally, as the electricity mix continues to decarbonize, the life-cycle emissions gap between BEVs and gasoline vehicles increases substantially when considering medium-size cars projected to be registered in 2030.
Car and Driver explains it like this: EVs produce some brake dust, but they don’t directly emit carbon dioxide or any of the other nasty stuff in exhaust. While a gas car keeps polluting all the way through the end of its life, the average electric makes up for the higher environmental cost of its production within the first few years of ownership. And the power grid can shift to use more and more renewable energy, which makes EVs look even better; owners can even charge them at home using solar panels. Meanwhile, every inch traveled in a gas car means burning more fuel and pumping more toxic chemicals and carbon dioxide into the air. And consider the environmental impact of the oil industry. Oil is sucked from the Earth in a resource- and energy-intensive process that comes with a decades-long list of human and environmental costs. Yes, getting lithium is ugly, but it has a long way to go before it will cost us as much as the procurement of oil has.
MYTH #3 Electric cars are fire hazards.
FACT: There isn’t any evidence that electrics are more likely to catch fire than their internal-combustion counterparts when you compare fires per vehicle mile traveled.
A 2020 study by the National Fire Protection Association estimated that there were 212,500 vehicle fires in the United States in 2018. Some of the causes, like smoking in the passenger compartment or friction between worn or improperly lubricated parts, aren’t going away with the switch to EVs. Others, like fuel or oil leaking onto a hot exhaust manifold, are internal-combustion specific.
Some automakers have had notable difficulties with EV fires, which do tend to burn longer and to be more dangerous to extinguish than other fires.
EV fires can be caused by manufacturing defects, software glitches or crashes severe enough to damage the battery. The fires that draw national coverage usually happen when the vehicle is charging or parked. They’re rare, but the idea of your car burning in your garage while you sleep is terrifying. But gas cars burn in accidents, too, and dozens of recalls have been initiated for conventional cars that catch fire when parked.
MYTH #4 The power grid will not be able to handle the charging needs of a large number of EVs on the road.
FACT: While EVs do take time to recharge, most EV owners tend to charge their batteries at night.
According to a Navigant Research report, the U.S. can add millions of electric cars to our power grid without having to build any new power plants because the electric grid can handle additional nighttime electricity use.