Air and noise pollution have many different sources and is a growing concern worldwide. One of the largest causes in the US is pollution caused by and because of, cars and trucks. There are two major types of pollution from cars: direct emissions and lifecycle emissions.

Do electric cars reduce pollution? In this article, we will examine what the leading causes of direct and lifecycle emissions are, how they can be reduced and if electric cars actually do lower these emissions. We will also take a look at noise pollution and the effect electric cars have on roadway nose.

While the general consensus is that, yes, electric cars do reduce pollution, there is a lot more to it than you may realize.

Noise Pollution

Do electric cars reduce noise pollution? They do contribute to lower levels of noise pollution. However, they still add to it as well. Noise pollution, when talking about cars and trucks, or known as roadway noise. All cars and trucks driving on our roads contribute to this noise level.

Engines noise, breaking, road surface contact and transmissions all add to the overall noise pollution levels. While it would be easy to assume that engines and transmissions cause the most noise pollution, the truth is that they do not.

The most noise pollution from cars, or roadway noise, comes from tires on the pavement. The faster the car travels, the more roadway noise it produces. Because electric cars still have tires on the road surface, they still contribute the same noise pollution factors as all of the other cars.

Braking sounds are also a large factor in roadway noise. The friction created from brake pads on rotors to slow, and eventually stop, a vehicle creates quite a bit of noise. When the pads get worn, or the rotors are older, this noise can increase dramatically.

Because there are also brakes and rotors on electric cars, they also contribute to brake noise. This is another one that can’t be helped just because the car is electric. While most electric cars are lighter than their gasoline-powered alternatives, breaking still creates friction which, in turn, contributes to roadway noise.

Engine and transmission noise is another large factor overall. This is where the idea that electric cars lower car noise pollution levels. In fact, they do. All electric cars do not have a gas-powered combustion engine and the battery-powered motor makes virtually no noise at all.

There will be whines and hums from the motors since they do have moving parts. However, the decibel levels are drastically reduced. Even in hybrid cars that run electric and gasoline powered motors will reduce engine noise levels. The gas powered motor is still quieter in hybrids than in straight gas vehicles.

Overall, though, until we can get the tires off of the road surface, there really won’t be a way to reduce the roadway noise levels drastically. Driving less, at slower speeds and not braking as hard or suddenly will all help lower road noise, but as to how much: not very.

Air Pollution

As we talked about in the beginning, there are two major types of air pollution: direct and lifecycle emissions. Let’s take a closer look at each one and see if electric cars actually lower emission pollutions.

Direct Emissions

Direct emissions are the pollutants that come directly from the car. Most notably the tailpipe emissions. In gas powered cars there is little to prevent these emissions and the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

In electric cars, there isn’t a gas-powered engine to create these gases and as a result, there are no pollutants in the form of greenhouse gases produced. Based on this fact alone, electric cars lower pollution as far as direct emissions go.

Plug-in electric cars, or hybrids, do have a gasoline-powered engine as well as the battery powered one. However, because of the way they are designed and ran the emissions from the tailpipe are limited. They will pollute when running on the gas engine, but the levels are much lower as it takes less power to run the car.

With electric cars and trucks, there are no tailpipe, or direct, emissions. But this doesn’t mean they are without pollutants. This is where lifecycle emissions come in to play.

Life Cycle Emissions

Life cycle emissions, unlike direct emissions, are caused and produced to give the vehicles the power they need. Producing the electricity to recharge the batteries, for example, has to be produced from an electrical plant.

Most of these plants are still heavy polluters and a lot of them are still coal operated, which is the single largest producer of air pollution today. There are other plants that produce the electricity these cars need that aren’t coal. However, they all produce emissions and pollution.

The term life cycle though is more than just power plants and smokestacks. Every process that goes into getting your car refueled count towards this life cycle. From extracting the raw materials, refining, production and even locally when you fill up your car at the pump.

From conception to extraction to use, the entire cycle of life contributes to pollution. This isn’t as large of an impact when talking about electrical energy over petroleum and gasoline production. However, there is still pollution and greenhouse gases produced. To actually calculate how much less is near impossible, however.

With the EPA cracking down and making tough and more stringent pollution laws, production plants are taking large steps to reduce these greenhouse gases and making it easier and more efficient to refuel your car, even if it is electric.

We now also have near pollution free solutions such as wind and solar power conversion. With these two methods, the conversion to electrical power greatly reduces the pollution created. However, don’t think that there isn’t any at all. The conversion process still has byproducts that can, and do, pollute the air.

These pollutants are not generally greenhouse gases and don’t contribute to the depletion of the ozone, but they are still there.

Electric cars do help reduce air pollution. It just also depends on where the source of the power comes from. If you are in an area that uses coal plants to produce the electricity, the impact is much less. If you get your power from wind or solar plants, though, it is quite a drastic drop.

Pollution from cars is being reduced. Electric cars help in the greenhouse gas pollution. However, there isn’t a noticeable reduction in noise pollution.

While efforts are being made on all levels from federal government to local governments to individuals, there is always more that can be done. Pollution from cars is one thing we can all take note from and find ways to reduce pollution overall.

Reducing Pollution

While owning and operating an electric car will help lower air pollution, it does very little in the way of lowering noise pollution. However, there are still things you can do to alleviate noise pollution.

Only drive when you need to. If you don’t have to drive, don’t. Walk instead or, alternatively, take mass transit. Fewer tires on the road mean less noise pollution. When you do drive, you can be as efficient as you can to help reduce noise levels.

While you can’t prevent the tires from being on the road, you can control how fast you go. The slower you travel, the less noise the tires create. You can also control breaking. Hard, sudden stopping creates more friction than slow, controlled pedal movement.

It all adds up, and doing what you can will have an impact on the overall noise and air pollutions our cars create.

In Conclusion

Electric cars have lower emissions than the gas-powered alternativeness. Is it enough to have an impact though? When it comes to noise and air pollution the answer is trickier than it seems.

Noise pollution is generated by more than just the sound of the engine. While electric cars tend to be less noisy when it comes to engines, the rest of the car still contributes to overall noise pollution. Tires on the road are the highest level of roadway noise. There isn’t anything we can do about that at this time, except for driving less.

Air pollution, on the other hand, sees a drastic reduction when talking about electric cars. Direct emissions are virtually non-existent in fully electric cars and trucks. In hybrid cars, the only direct emissions come when the car is being powered by the gasoline engine. Even this is more efficient though, and greenhouse gases are reduced.

Lifecycle emissions are also reduced, but there isn’t a clear idea as to how much. Sourcing where your power comes from and trying to reduce reliance on coal plants is the first and largest step.

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