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Comparative Environmental Friendliness of Internal Combustion and Electric Vehicles Answered

I would like to know which type of vehicle is more environmentally friendly.

Electric and hybrid vehicles are gaining in popularity and they are touted as green, but they clearly require more energy and resources in their manufacture due to their battery packs, rare earth metals and electric motors.

On the other hand, traditional internal combustion vehicles require fewer resources to manufacture. However, I imagine that it converts fossil fuels to energy less efficiently than electrics because the conversion process is smaller, unlike in large scale power plants (not sure if this is true).

More resources to create (-)
Power Plant (Generates energy efficiently?) (+) -> Power Lines (A: energy loss) (-) -> Motion

Fewer Resources to create (+)
Combustion Motor (Generates energy inefficiently? B: energy loss) (-) -> Motion

I'm pretty terrible at explaining this, but is the energy loss at A or B worse when comparing the two systems? For electrics to be viable, it must offset the higher creation cost.

Just wondering which one is actually more "green" when you factor in production (disregard cost of transporting fossil fuels to gas stations and power plants).


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10 years ago

Have you considered wood powered vehicles?

These are completely carbon neutral (+)
They will run from a re-newable energy source (+)
Proven technology, allbeit WWII (+)
Unsightly (-)
You may need your own forest (-)



10 years ago

I don't think there is a definitive one-or-the-other answer.

It will probably be worse to build a battery car from scratch, but I would hope that they are also built to bee more easily recycled.

Electric cars are less efficient than fossil fuels at the moment, because most of the electricity stored in the batteries is generated by fossil fuels, but when oil hits $200 a barrel, wind, wave and sun will still be free...

Basically, I'm saying that you need to look at the really long term.