Are Electric Vehicles Really Worth The Higher Costs?

by JP Kiefer

Electric vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles all offer promising alternatives to the conventional vehicle in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These alternatives may not be as beneficial as they seem on first glance, however. While electric, hybrid-electric, and fuel cell vehicles all promise to minimize greenhouse gas emissions from their daily use, Gau and Winfield (2012) point out that each vehicle’s life cycle assessment needs to be computed before jumping to the conclusion that hybrid vehicles minimize greenhouse gas emissions. The life cycle assessment analyzes the greenhouse gas emissions from two cycles: a vehicle life cycle that includes vehicle assembly, maintenance, dismantling, and recycling and a fuel life cycle that consists of fuel extraction, processing, distribution, storage, and use. These alternative vehicles are the products of a larger volume of greenhouse gas emission from the vehicle life cycle due to additional energy consumption involved with the batteries and other additional parts that go into the more advanced technologies. Electric, hybrid electric, and plug-in hybrid vehicles can also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions when the energy used to charge the batteries does not come from a clean energy source. Gau and Winfield calculate that alternative vehicles do consume less energy than conventional vehicles, which consume an estimated 3600kJ/km in their life time, compared to a mere 2250kJ/km by hybrid electric vehicles or 3000kJ/km by extended range electric vehicles. Continue reading