Green washing the sports car

Today I read a popular scientific magazine where an environmentally friendly car was presented. The environmental friendliness was attributed to the potential to run on electricity. With a power of more than 500 hp and corresponding breaking capacity and weight, it was presented as a sports car for two persons.

I’m sure that this car for most potential buyers is a toy that only rarely will come out of the garage and the point that I’m about to make will thus be either to overstate the obvious or completely “mal placé”.

Still, there are two questions that I want to raise in this context:

1) For cars and car use in general most of the environmental impact originate from the production phase. The wastes, energy and material used for the production dominate the environmental impact. The limited number of person kilometre produced by the car during it’s life time restrict the environmental impact from the usage. This is often forgotten when one parameter only, green house gases, are in focus.

2) In most parts of the world the electricity is produced from fosil fuels. For the few cars that are in service to such an extent that the choice of fuel matters for the total environmental load, the switch to electricity will not have a major impact on the emissions of green house gases. It will however be favourable to lower the local hazardous emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulates.

It is thus not correct to use the term environmentally friendly about an electric sports car. In the best case in can become slightly less destructive for the environment than the standard product. But, environmentally friendly, no way.

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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