When you drive around town, what type of cars do you see the most? Electric or gasoline? Most people would answer with gasoline, as would I, but in the Bay Area, there are a lot of electric or hybrid cars, such as Teslas and Priuses. We often think of electric cars as more environmentally friendly and efficient than gas cars. However, the issue of whether or not a car is environmentally friendly or not transcends even the cars themselves; it depends on how the energy used to fuel the cars is made. This is why gas cars are a better option than electric cars in the present, but electric will eventually win out in the long run.
The first step in deciphering this complex problem is to look at the distances a gas car vs. an electric can go on one tank of gas or charge. Based on my own knowledge and approximations of others, the average distance for a gas car is around 300 to 400 miles with many cars pushing well beyond the 400 mile mark. For electric cars, the average car can travel around 100 to 200 miles per charge while a few cars reach beyond the 200 mile mark. This means electric cars must recharge more frequently than gas cars need to refuel. But the energy used in electric cars is better for the environment than gasoline, right? Wrong.
Since electric cars require recharging more frequently than gas cars need refueling, they consume large amounts of energy. Normally, this would be acceptable, because it is much better for the environment to use renewable energy than gasoline. However, the key statistic dividing gas and electric cars is how our electricity is generated. According to Energy Information Administration data in 2017, 61 percent of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are nonrenewable, and the burning of them gives off greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. In addition, 20 percent of our electricity is from nuclear energy, which is widely considered a nonrenewable type of energy. Finally, only 17 percent of our electricity is truly renewable. This means that every time an electric car refuels, only 17 percent of the electricity that it uses is renewable. Furthermore, internal combustion engines have improved 100 fold since the gas guzzling days of the 60’s. According to an article from Politico, today’s internal combustion engines emit one percent of the pollution that they did in the 1960s.
With all this information, it’s evident that gas-based cars are actually responsible for less pollution than electric cars. However, we aren’t stuck in 2018; I believe looking forward is vital to the survival of the human race. Renewable energy in the U.S. is expected to increase by 4.6 percent each year with many states creating even more renewable energy than that. This, combined with the fact that electric car technology will continue to develop makes electric cars the more appealing option for the future. Despite that, technology, especially energy production and electric cars, needs time to develop. I think government mandates on car companies and tax exemptions must wait; there will be a time and a place for those, as our technology will evolve even further. After all, couldn’t we all just use a few years to slow down and let the world catch up to our latest innovations?