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Could Electric Cars Cause Worse Pollution Than A Gas Guzzler?

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The electric (or even hybrid) car has been heralded as a way to help limit the amount of aerial pollution hitting the skies and our lungs, but a new study out of China has shown that they're actually even worse than regular gas guzzlers.

Top image: Asterix611 on Flickr

The study in specific looked at the emission of particulate matter, as opposed to the usual comparisons of greenhouse gases. What they found is that per person per mile, electric cars are worse than gasoline ones, but it's not immediately obvious because the pollution is happening at power plants instead of out of a tailpipe. Because so much of China's power comes from fossil fuels — primarily coal — the energy that goes into the electric vehicle is very dirty, and actually more polluting than just using a standard gasoline engine.


Diesel buses were around the same level as the electric cars, and diesel cars were the worst. But overall, what was the most environmentally friendly way to get around, per person, per mile? Electric motorcycle, a form of transportation that's been wildly successful in China.

By gathering the power for the electric batteries from more environmentally friendly sources, it's possible to sidestep this pollution problem, but it does raise a very important point about studying pollution: there's more going on than just what comes out of a tailpipe.