Luxury Cars

The electric vehicle greenwashing conundrum

It’s time to speak up. Have the climate impacts of electric vehicles (EVs) improved global sustainability efforts?


Greenwashing in the electric vehicle market is real. Image:

This is different than it seems. The complete openness of automobile manufacturers is currently questionable. When Polestar 2’s life cycle assessment was conducted in 2020, the company used a comprehensive process to calculate its sustainability data. This report prompted other automakers to speak more openly about the impact of climate change on their products.

Electric vehicles are more environmentally friendly than conventional combustion engine vehicles. The topic of greenwashing by various OEMs has been discussed for some time.

Still, several variables influence how environmentally friendly and sustainable electric vehicles are overall. Let’s examine some key arguments in favor of greener electric vehicles and some common reasons for the automotive industry’s greenwashing of electric vehicles.

Claims that prove electric cars are more environmentally friendly:

1) Reduced exhaust emissions: Conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles emit dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which worsen air pollution and accelerate climate change. When driving an electric vehicle, however, no exhaust pollutants are released.

2) Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: Total greenhouse gas emissions associated with electric vehicles (EVs) depend on the composition of electricity generation in a given area.

3) Energy Efficiency: In general, internal combustion engines are less energy efficient than electric motors. Compared to traditional cars, which waste a significant amount of energy in the form of heat during combustion, electric vehicles (EVs) convert a larger percentage of the grid’s energy into usable electricity to power the car.

4) Lifecycle emissions: Research shows that electric vehicles can still have a lower carbon footprint throughout their lifespan than conventional cars when manufacturing, charging and end-of-life recycling are taken into account.

5) Technological advances in batteries: As battery technology advances, the environmental impact of battery production is reduced. Research is being conducted to develop more environmentally friendly battery materials and recycling techniques to increase the environmental friendliness of electric vehicles.

Volvo EX30

The Volvo EX30 touts itself as one of the most exciting electric cars ever. Image: Volvo.

5 reasons for EV greenwashing

Deceiving customers about the environmental benefits of a product or service is known as “greenwashing.”

False environmental claims
Certain automakers may exaggerate the environmental benefits of their electric vehicles without providing enough evidence or clear statistics to support their claims in order to project a positive image. This practice is known as “greenwashing” electric cars.

Presentation of only specific data
Electric car greenwashing is the practice of automakers emphasizing certain features of their cars that appear environmentally friendly while downplaying other, less environmentally friendly features. This approach can be done by cherry-picking data or by using a limited scope.

Equilibrium emissions
Some automakers may advertise that their electric vehicles (EVs) are environmentally friendly by offsetting emissions in various ways, such as: B. by purchasing carbon credits or contributing to environmental programs without taking into account the actual emissions from their supply chains or production processes.

Insufficient transparency
When companies are unaware of the environmental impact of their products, greenwashing can flourish and make it difficult for customers to make smart decisions.

Sales hype
While some companies may use misleading marketing strategies to create the impression that they care about the environment, they may not make significant efforts to improve the sustainability of their product lines.


Are we saving the earth by charging electric vehicles instead of regular gasoline cars? Image:

So are electric vehicles environmentally friendly?

To show whether electric vehicles are more environmentally friendly or not, four main arguments are required.

Battery degradation
Even though it seems that there will be sufficient supply, we cannot ignore the damage that the exploitation of rare earth elements (REE) causes to the ecosystem. Rare earths such as lithium are mined beneath the earth’s surface and used to build batteries for electric vehicles.

A recent analysis by the Chinese Rare Earth Society states that 1 ton of radioactive residues and 75 tons of acid waste are needed to produce 1 ton of rare earth elements. This is because the majority of the energy needed to produce these batteries comes from non-carbon sources, accounting for about half of their environmental impact.

Recycling batteries
Because lithium-ion batteries contain very little lithium and a highly complex mixture of chemical components, commercial recycling is not an attractive option.

This has no bearing on how environmentally friendly electric vehicles are. However, as the electric vehicle market grows, learning ways to recycle or recover REEs (rare earth elements) has become increasingly attractive. Therefore, there is a great chance that a healthy battery recycling market will continue to grow, contributing to the environmental friendliness of electric vehicles.

Mining rare earths

Mining rare earth elements used in the production of electric vehicle batteries. Image: Gript.

Grid sustainability when charging
Simply put, CO2 emissions from electric cars will always be higher if they are powered by sources other than solar, wind, nuclear or hydropower.

For example, it makes little difference if these cars emit zero emissions while driving if the electricity used to charge them is generated by burning fossil fuels; The pollutants were previously discharged into a distant power plant.

Not all editions. No costs
Cars with electric motors are not completely emission-free. Although these vehicles do not emit CO2 when driving, they do emit CO2 during their manufacture and when producing energy in their batteries.

For example, mining activities that extract rare earth metals for battery production can use a lot of electricity, which pollutes the environment. When generating electricity, an engine running on fossil fuels still emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – but this occurs via a remote power plant and not via exhaust gases. When it comes to battery recycling, most electric vehicle batteries still need to be recycled, making it an expensive and laborious process.


Do your research before purchasing your electric vehicle. Image: Acardis.

Customers should do their homework and carefully examine the environmental claims of car manufacturers to avoid being misled into buying electric cars. Governments and regulators are also crucial in setting policies and ensuring openness to prevent the automotive industry from engaging in EV greenwashing.

Read the fine print and other related materials about EV greenwashing. Certain automakers may not be transparent about sustainability. The buyer’s decision to purchase an electric vehicle (EV) for environmental reasons is based solely on his or her judgment, research and understanding of the automotive industry.

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