Electric cars are increasingly popular. EV sales have exceeded 10 million units since 2022. But what exactly is contributing to this popularity? What are the impacts of EVs on the environment and sustainability as a whole?

Electric Cars vs Conventional Cars

Electric cars differ from gas-powered cars in more ways than one. Each has different requirements when it comes to fuel and maintenance and different impacts on the environment.

The primary difference between electric cars and conventional cars is their power source. Electric cars run with the assistance of an electric motor and battery. Conventional vehicles use internal combustion engines (ICEs).

In ICEs, fuel ignites and combusts. The thermal energy produced is converted into mechanical energy, which in turn drives the wheels of the car. Since this process involves the combustion of fuel, pollutants are generated as well. These include carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter, which are hazardous and affect air quality as soon as they are emitted from the exhaust.

The electric motors in EVs obtain their energy from a battery pack. Since there is no need for the combustion of fuels at this point, neither heat nor pollutants are generated and they are “zero emission”.

Electric cars are more efficient than regular vehicles. ICE cars convert less than 40% of thermal energy into mechanical energy. EVs convert around 77% of their electrical energy to mechanical energy, so they use less energy to get us from A to B.

EVs are also cheaper in the long run. The initial costs are higher, but according to Consumer Reports, EV owners spend 60% less on fueling their cars than their ICE vehicle counterparts. Plus electric cars have fewer moving parts to maintain and replace than conventional cars.

When it comes to safety, a study by the Swedish Contingencies Agency found that ICE vehicles were 20 times more likely to catch fire than EVs. Though EVs are not completely fire-proof, the absence of volatile, flammable liquids in the engine makes them significantly more so.

The weight distribution of the components of electric cars also makes them less prone to accidents. The battery pack is the heaviest part of EVs and, with the motor, is located at the bottom of the car giving EVs a low centre of gravity and more stability when turning. ICE cars have the heavier parts, including the engine, in the front creating a higher centre of gravity, making them more prone to rolling.

Environmental Advantages of EVs

Electric cars are an eco-friendly force to be reckoned with.

They are “zero emission”. Absolutely no exhaust emissions come from an electric car.

Whilst EV cars produce 70% more emissions than ICE cars in the manufacturing process (we call this “carbon debt”), their emissions over the course of its lifetime are still fewer (Union of Concerned Scientists).

Often overlooked is noise pollution. Repeat after me: loud engines are NOT cool. Driving amazing sports cars might look dazzling, but when the driver makes his engine scream while blowing soot into my face, I have second thoughts. Since electric cars don’t use combustion engines, they are almost silent and no soot is blown into your beautiful face.

Living in a country blessed with oil and gas reserves, we sometimes forget how precious these resources are. They are non-renewable, after all. EVs run on electric energy, which can be generated from renewable resources, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power.

The Flip Side

Every coin has two sides, right?

Despite all the positive aspects, there are a few concerns as well.

One is that most countries still burn fossil fuels to generate the electricity that will fuel your EV. It should be remembered, though, that even when powered from the dirtiest grid, EVs have fewer carbon emissions overall.

The EV’s quiet engine can be a hazard for pedestrians and cyclists who are used to using their ears as well as their eyes when navigating roads. It will take time for people to fully adjust to a car’s silent approach.

Many countries do not have the charging infrastructure to support EVs taking longer journeys.

Another big issue is the battery – its creation and disposal. Large amounts of hazardous substances are emitted in the production of a battery. This is the EV’s main carbon debt. It is however, paid off within two years of being driven.

Most electric cars use lithium-ion batteries. When these reach the end of their useful life, they need to be disposed of according to strict regulations to minimize their hazardous impact on the environment. These can also be disassembled and recycled. Materials such as cobalt, aluminum, nickel, and lithium can be extracted and reused to produce new batteries! As technology advances, car batteries will become lighter, more compact, more efficient, and hopefully, easier to dispose of and recycle.


This year, 2024, it’s estimated global sales of EVs will grow by 21%. They are taking over our roads and driving us closer to our sustainability goals of zero emissions by 2050. Technology is not going backwards! With continuing innovation, electric cars are becoming easier to integrate into our society and we can safely say that the future will be electric!

Souparnika is a high school student in Qatar and environment enthusiast

Souparnika Rajkumar

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