Are Electric Cars Worth It?

The U.S. government is giving away a $7,500 tax break to every person who purchased an electric vehicle in 2011. But don’t go kicking yourself for not purchasing one just yet. Depending on where you live and what type of vehicle you choose, an EV may or may not be the most environmentally friendly choice.

The environmental cost for making and transporting both conventional, hybrid, and electric vehicles is similar, but what about the energy used to charge the EV battery? If you live in the Pacific Northwest, charging an EV battery causes little, if any, environmental impact. This is because the region has a huge hydroelectric power grid, which makes for clean energy. In landlocked areas like Texas, however, electricity is created primarily by fossil fuels, so your car is still producing carbon emissions, albeit indirectly.

Another issue is the distance you can travel on a single charge. This varies from maker to maker, but even 100 miles might not be enough for some people. If that case, a hybrid or fuel efficient vehicle might be the best choice. The batteries can only hold so much energy, and like all batteries, they eventually lose their ability to hold a charge. This means more time spent charging your vehicle than driving until the battery is dead.

So, what happens when it dies? You recycle it and get a new one, which is costly. Lead acid batteries are extremely toxic, and the recycling process isn’t really cost effective or environmentally friendly. In Frisco, Texas, recycler Exide got into hot water with the city and the federal government for failing emissions tests. Federal inspectors discovered the plant wasn’t following proper safety procedures and as a result of this, dangerous levels of lead were being released into the air. Because the plant is located in the middle of the city, the citizens were naturally outraged. Several other battery recycling plants throughout the nation also failed safety inspections.

Cutting edge car makers have begun to use lithium ion batteries, which have been shown to be environmentally friendly and completely recyclable. The Tesla Roadster is just one example of an EV with such a battery. The car has gotten rave reviews from owners and testers for both its looks and for its prowess on the road.

While electric vehicles are, as a whole better for the environment than conventional gas combustion and even hybrids, check out your options and find out just how much of an environmental impact your chosen car will make.

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