Why Electric Cars Are More Polluting than Gas Guzzlers

It’s unspoken, but every driver gliding around town behind the wheel of a Prius is thinking the same thing: “I’m saving the planet. What are you doing, you dirty-fossil-fuel burner?” But, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, it turns out that the use of electric vehicles may not be that clean after all, particularly in the world’s most populated country, China.

In the study, Christopher Cherry, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of Tennessee, and his colleagues found that in terms of air pollution, electric vehicles were more harmful to public health per kilometer traveled than gasoline-powered cars. That’s right — the electrically powered cars turned out to be dirtier than those with internal combustion engines.

Cherry says there’s been an implicit assumption that because electric cars don’t burn fossil fuels, they’re cleaner for the environment and safer for people, but that doesn’t take into account how the electricity they use is generated. In China, that would be from fossil fuels. About 85% of the country’s electricity is powered by fossil fuels, of which 95% is coal.

Qui veut faire l’ange, fait la bête…