Hybrid & Electric Car Leasing Hub

If you're wanting to find out more about leasing an electric car, or have questions around charging, our comprehensive guides have everything you need to know.

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How green are electric cars?

Evocative names like the Nissan Leaf embrace the eco-friendly reputation of EVs. But is this status deserved? Let's start by debunking the myth that EVs may not be as eco-friendly as they appear. One of the most impressive features of electric cars is zero tailpipe emissions. 

Unlike traditional petrol and diesel vehicles, electric cars don’t release harmful pollutants like carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) or particulate matter (PM) into the atmosphere while operating. This wins EVs serious credentials when it comes to environmental impact and makes them especially desirable in cities like London, where air quality is an ongoing issue.

Find out more about EVs and how they work in our electric car guide.

Electric car manufacturing emissions

To gauge the true environmental impact of electric cars, it's important to consider emissions generated during the manufacturing process. Critics often argue that the energy-intensive and highly specialised manufacturing process gives EVs a larger carbon footprint than conventional vehicles. Let's unpack this in a little more detail:

Yes, manufacturing electric cars does require energy and resources. For example, the construction of the body requires a similar amount of energy to traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. But overall, the elimination of tailpipe emissions cancels out the environmental footprint made during the manufacturing process.

The environmental impact of EV batteries

EVs also have unique requirements when it comes to battery production. This is typically the most energy-intensive stage of EV manufacturing. It involves processes like mining and refining raw materials such as lithium, cobalt and nickel. As well as consuming large amounts of energy these processes release substantial emissions into the atmosphere. Energy is also consumed during the cell manufacturing and battery assembly stages. 

At the end of the day, manufacturing EVs does have a carbon footprint. However, it's important to remember that most EVs offset energy demands and emissions created during the manufacturing process with a significantly lower environmental impact over the lifespan of the vehicle. 

A transition to green energy and sustainable materials 

Many EV manufacturers are adopting greener production processes, including using renewable energy to power facilities. At the Tesla Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York a rooftop solar system generates enough electricity to power the facility.  

Actively sourcing sustainable materials is another trend being embraced by EV manufacturers. For example, some manufacturers are starting to replace traditional metals and plastics with eco-friendly alternatives. 

Manufacturers like Polestar champion recycled materials for interior components like seats. Fiat is another sustainably-minded EV manufacturer and recently launched its revolutionary Seaqual® fabric made from recycled plastic. 90% is sourced from land and the remaining 10% is sourced from the ocean. 

Battery recycling is also a popular movement within the EV industry. Nissan is a pioneer in recycling EV batteries and recently used reclaimed materials to generate power for the 2019 Cricket World Cup held at Bennington Cricket Club. 

Advances in battery technology are also improving the eco credentials of EVs. An increasing number of manufacturers are switching to solid-state batteries, which offer higher energy density, faster charge times and longer lifespans compared to lithium-ion batteries. 

Electric car driving emissions

When it comes to day-to-day driving, electric cars shine. As mentioned earlier, electric cars have zero tailpipe emissions. This means they take passengers from A to B without releasing any harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.

Electric vehicles are more energy efficient than their ICE counterparts. This means they require less energy to travel the same distance.

Even when emissions associated with electricity generation are factored in, EVs still outperform petrol and diesel vehicles. The environmental benefits of EVs become even more pronounced when electricity generated using renewable resources is used to charge batteries.

Do electric cars produce emissions?

Eliminating tailpipe emissions is one of the most compelling benefits of EVs. Even the most efficient petrol and diesel vehicles like the Kia Picanto, Mazda CX-3 and Honda Civic release pollutants like CO2, NOx, CO and PM into the atmosphere during the fuel combustion process. This contributes to issues like air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, both major contributors to climate change in the UK.

In contrast, EVs produce zero emissions while operating. Instead of a combustion engine, the EVs are propelled by an electric motor. It’s powered by electricity stored in a battery and eliminates the need for a traditional combustion engine and exhaust system. 

How do electric cars compare to petrol and diesel?

The below table offers a quick and easy-to-digest look at how EVs compare to petrol and diesel powered vehicles. 

CharacteristicElectric cars Petrol and diesel cars
Tailpipe emissionsZero emissionsCO2, NOx, and other pollutants
Energy efficiencyHighly efficientLess efficient
Fuel sourceElectricity, generated using either fossil fuels or renewablesFossil fuels
Noise pollutionQuieter operationSignificant engine noise
MaintenanceSimple engines with fewer moving parts translate to lower cost of ownershipComplex combustion engines require more maintenance

Find out more in our guide to electric cars vs petrol.

Is the electricity used to charge EVs green?

Regardless of how they’re manufactured or charged, EVs release zero tailpipe emissions into the atmosphere while in operation. However, electricity is required to charge batteries which can affect the environmental credentials of EVs.

The UK uses a combination of sources to generate electricity, including fossil fuels like gas and coal, nuclear energy and renewables. The latest data reveals around 30% of energy in the UK is generated using wind power and almost 4.5% by hydro. Nuclear power accounts for around 15% while biomass is used to generate 5.5%. This represents a drastic shift from the energy landscape in 1990 when 80% of electricity was generated using coal.

What does this mean for EV motorists? No matter how or where you charge your EV in the UK, chances are a significant portion of electricity channelled into the battery is green.

Improve the eco credentials of your EV by installing a home charger and choosing an EV energy tariff. Unlike public charge stations which typically use standard grid electricity, EV energy tariffs allow you to charge your EV using 100% renewable energy.

Are hybrid cars better for the environment?

Over the past decade, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have emerged as another popular option for eco-conscious motorists. The technology combines the power and reliability of an internal combustion engine with the environmental benefits of an electric motor. Batteries are larger than traditional hybrids which allows PHEVs to offer significant all-electric range. For example, the Polestar 1 offers an impressive 93 miles of electric range on a single charge.

When running in all-electric mode PHEVs produce zero tailpipe emissions. Of course, when the ICE kicks in emissions are generated. The bottom line?

While PHEVs aren’t as eco-friendly as electric cars they do perform well compared to conventional petrol or diesel vehicles, especially for short trips where the electric motor does most of the work.

Considering using hybrid car leasing to upgrade to a PHEV? Here’s a roundup of the top-performing models when it comes to all-electric range.

Find out more about hybrids in our guide to hybrid cars.

Electric cars: a better choice for the environment

No matter how you slice it, electric cars are undeniably better for the environment compared to traditional petrol and diesel vehicles. Sure, when you factor in the environmental footprint of the manufacturing process and electricity to charge the battery, EVs aren’t 100% sustainable. But they’re significantly greener than traditional ICE vehicles and offer a laundry list of environmental benefits, including lower emissions and improved air quality. As the world transitions towards a greener future, the relevance and popularity of EVs will continue to grow.

Thinking of upgrading to an EV? Get in touch with Leasing Options today to find out more about how electric car leasing can help you secure the keys to bestsellers like the Audi Q4 e-tron and Tesla Model 3.

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