While electric vehicles free transportation from its most immediate reliance on fossil fuels, a new study finds that these cars are far from zero-carbon. The study, conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has found that, despite, operating on pure electricity, the greenhouse gas emissions produced by electric vehicles remain shockingly high. As a result of a combination of factors, the recent study finds that EVs may, in fact, prove more harmful to the environment in some areas of the world than traditional, gas-fueled vehicles.

Perhaps the most damaging of the study’s findings was that the production and manufacturing of electric vehicles produces, on the whole, more greenhouse gas emissions than do traditional, gas-fueled vehicles. While significant, the issue of the greater environmental burden imposed by electric vehicles, this factor is ultimately of less significance when one considers the future potential they hold. For while electric vehicles may indeed be more emissions heavy at the moment, these emissions will be significantly reduced by the ongoing popularization of electric vehicles as components and equipment become available in greater quantities and, consequently, move closer to production centers. Furthermore, as greater numbers of drivers buy electric vehicles they will create a new market for used electric vehicles, thereby increasing the life span of each individual vehicle and decreasing its individual impact, a reasonable assumption given the high sales of pre-owned cars.

Alongside this finding, the Norwegian study also determined that the ultimate environmental impact of an electric vehicle depends on the energy structure in the driver’s region. The study’s authors found that the overall “well-to-wheel” environmental impact, or the combined emissions produced throughout the production of the electricity required to fuel EVs through to the operation of an EV, of electric vehicles is, in fact, higher than those of traditional gas powered vehicles in areas with a fossil-fuel heavy energy structure. While dispiriting, these findings are not altogether damning. Given the carbon-intensity reduction programs currently underway in numerous countries across the world, efforts which will eventually lead to low or zero-carbon energy production processes, electric vehicles continue to hold far more promise than do traditional vehicles; as gas-fueled cars will always produce a certain base level of emissions regardless of advances made to this technology.

Finally, rather than discouraging the spirits of those concerned with the fate of our environment, these results should lend hope for the future and our ability to eventually cut emissions to zero. Achieving this result will rely equally heavily on realizing the ambitious targets set forth by world governments for the development of the low-carbon cities of the future, as on perfecting EV technology.

Source: Report by the BBC

Read more: Discussion with one of the study’s authors at the Guardian’s Eco Audit blog

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology study

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