To be truthful, that which fuels a zero-emission vehicle must come from somewhere. The electricity used to power an electric car comes not from a plug in the wall, but from a fossil-fuel-burning, pollution-producing powerplant. Remember, just as in physics one must consider the whole system. Take for example a rocket. When the rocket is sitting on a launchpad it has no momentum. It is, after all, sitting, not running or flying. When the fuel is ignited and the rocket begins to move upward, the rocket gains momentum. However, this is not the full system. The momentum of the rocket upward is equal to the momentum of the fuel downward. When the full system is put into consideration, there has been no change in momentum.
Simply stating that zero emission vehicles do not produce pollution is an ignorant statement. One must view the full system, not a small part of it. The zero emission vehicle must get the fuel used to power it from somewhere, and to make the fuel one must use a simpler fuel. The simpler fuel is often fossil fuels or some other highly polluting relative. Therefore, when one considers the full system zero emission vehicles are actually highly pollutive, and some may actually be more pollutive than the highly disliked and demonized fossil fuel.
There is much more on this topic under alternative fuels, however repetition is not something that needs be done repeatedly.
C-Dawg recently messaged me and argued thus:
Isn't it generally considered that, in the whole, burning for the fuel for electric cars at a power plant is *much* more efficient than doing it in the car? I've never heard any counterargument to that.
I have prepared a counter-argument to C-Dawgs ounter-argument, as follows:
On the electrical cars, you actually lose two thirds of the electricity on average between the powerplant and the home because the power lines aren't actually zero resistance. Even though the resistance is small over a short segment it is actually quite huge between the average house and the powerplant because the distance there is so huge. That right there is a 66% energy loss just during the transfer of energy between the production and utilization point. The average car, not the most technologically advanced and also discluding new hybrid-electric cars, suffers an 80% energy loss due to most of the energy of burning the fuel being released as heat. Then we must consider that rechargeable batteries themselves are not completely efficient in translating electrical energy into chemical energy and chemical energy back into electrical energy. Also, the chemical reactions to translate the energy do not stop when the car is turned off, they continue wasting power. Then you must either dispose of or recycle the battery when it outlives its usefulness, which may mean trying to transport and get rid of hazardous chemicals or revitalizing those chemicals. Then there is the fact that to get an electric car to go the same distance on a single charge as a regular car on a tank of gas, you must have a huge and heavy battery. The weight of this battery can potentially be greater than the weight of a regular car engine and full gas tank, meaning that you must use more energy to move the car. In the end, the hybrid-electric is possibly the best because you do not suffer as greatly from many of these energy loss problems.
In response to messages from Ruben and several others:
Yes, it is possible to buy environmentally friendly electricity in many areas. The fact remains that most electricity produced in the United States is produced through the burning of carbon-based molecules such as oil, coal, and gasoline.