The goal of electric vehicles is to reduce air emissions associated with typical internal combustion vehicles (ICVs), thereby decreasing the emission of environmentally damaging products such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Since electric vehicles run on electricity generated from batteries and do not emit air pollutants, these vehicles are termed zero emission vehicles (ZEV). CARB mandated that ZEVs be 2% of the total automotive sales by 1998 and 10% by 2003. The push for ZEVs raises serious concerns about the environmental impacts of ZEVs due to their production and use. Is CARB’s push for ZEVs premature given the present state of battery technology? Will the production of ZEVs lead to unforeseen environmental destruction? Or are ZEVs the answer to our air pollution woes? This paper analyzes the feasibility of electric cars and the impacts of their production on the environment.
The components of air pollution have been attributed to a number of serious health and environmental consequences. For example, air pollution can lead to eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as complications in breathing. Some chemicals in air pollution, such as benzene, cause cancer while other chemicals may cause birth defects, brain and nerve damage and long-term injury to the lungs and breathing passages. Not only does air pollution create distinct medical problems, it also creates environmental problems as well.
Carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide are three examples of gases released into the atmosphere each year as a result of the combustion processes. Billions of pounds of pollutants are released each year from power plants and motor vehicles. These pollutants are causing serious problems for the environment. Motor vehicles are responsible for up to half of the smog-forming VOCs and nitrogen oxides (www.epa.gov/oar/oaqps/peg_caa/pegcaa04.html). Motor vehicles also release more than fifty percent of the hazardous air pollutants and up to ninety percent of the carbon monoxide found in urban air (www.epa.gov/oar/oaqps/peg_caa/pegcaa04.html). The carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides are known contributors to global warming, acid precipitation, or the depletion of the ozone layer (Rahman and Castro, 1995). With all of this taken into account, air pollution can be blamed for the destruction of plants, trees and animals.
The realization that air pollution must and can be reduced prompted the formation of the Clean Air Act in 1970. In an effort to clean up the air, the Clean Air Act mandated measures to reduce the emission of nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and volatile organic gases, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulates, and some air toxins (such as benzene and formaldehyde), all of which results in the formation of smog (Roque, 1995). Since California has a large density of motor vehicle use, the reduction of harmful emissions from motor vehicles was targeted. Tightening auto emission standards under the Clean...