Are Electric Cars A Solution to Global Warming?


Global warming has become one of the key issues of concern around the world. The effects of this environmental problem have started showing in some of the more populous parts of the world. The debate on whether or not global warming is a legitimate concern is leaning towards the affirmative side and shifting towards the question of how to resolve the increasing problem. The transport sector is a major contributor to the global warming effect. According to Chapman (2007, p. 354), the US transport sector contributes to 30% of the country’s global warming emissions. A substantial proportion of these emissions can be traced back to cars. Multiple solutions such as cleaner fuels and fuel efficient cars have been proposed and implemented in many parts of the world. One of the most controversial ideas, however, is that of the electric car. The electric car substitutes the conventional fossil fuels with electricity; an idea that is thought to completely eliminate any emissions. The electric car is a solution to global warming, given its elimination of greenhouse gas emissions. This paper assesses and argues against positions that suggest that the electric car cannot be a solution to global warming.

The first argument of why the electric car are not a solution to global warming is that they lack consumer appeal. The consumer is key to resolving the problem of global warming. In order to achieve reductions in emissions, governments have to convince their citizens to choose better alternatives to the current consumer products. Unfortunately, the electric car lacks consumer appeal due to the size. Many of the electric cars in the market are small cars, which cannot match the conventional vehicle in terms of consumer appeal or performance. Gerssen-Gondelach and Faaij (2012, p. 111) argue that the electric car is not yet competitive against the conventional car. Consumers are not willing to turn in their high performance SUVs for the small cars powered by electricity. This challenge is substantial and as long as technology on battery and other electric car components remain the same, consumer appeal will be low. Cherubini, Iasevoli and Michelini (2015, p. 40) argue that the consumer appeal on the electric cars is on the rise, particularly in the west. According to these scholars, marketing and product success have risen the profile of the electric car in western populations. For instance, Tesla, the premier electric car company, has successfully launched electric cars that could match conventional fuel cars. It is important to note that at first, consumers did not favor the present day car. Marketing and advancements in travel provided the popularity that propelled the product to the top of the consumers’ list. Given the fact that the popularity of electric cars is rising, the idea’s place as a solution to global warming is being cemented. Product development is bound to improve limitations that lower consumer satisfaction with the electric car. The result of this growing popularity is that there are less petroleum based cars on the roads and, hence, a reduction in global warming emissions.

The main challenge to the idea of the electric car is the range limitation that exists. Range is an important factor for travel, as its limitation creates anxiety among consumers. Despite considerable advancements in battery technology, most electric cars have remained under the 100 mile range (Franke and Krems 2013, p. 56). This means that the consumer has to find a recharging post within the 100 mile range, or else get stranded. This is a significant challenge for the electric car. Unlike the conventional car, which uses gas and could have a range of upto 400 miles, the electric car’s limitation makes it difficult to use in some cases. The problem of range is due to battery technology limitations. The battery is the main factor in the electric car. Gerssen-Gondelach and Faaij (2012, p. 116), however, identify the fact that the rate of technological advancement currently in the market suggests drastic improvements before the end of the decade. Battery technology is constantly being improved, and the open source nature of this technology has helped with advancements. For instance, while many electric cars still have limitations in range, the Tesla Model S has a range of 265 miles. As battery technology advances, the limitation of range will be eliminated, making the car more effective for travel and hence practical for consumers. The improvement in battery technology has opened the door to increased adoption by consumers, a factor that translates to improved emission levels. Another factor associated with battery technology is the open source approach used by companies such as Tesla in developing the technology (Hickins 2014). This helps improve the proliferation of the technology across the world, hence a widespread improvement in the reduction of global warming emissions.

The price of electric cars has been controversial. While they are not substantially more expensive than their conventional alternatives, they have a steep price for their performance. The comparative price of an electric car is higher than that of a conventional vehicle of the same performance range. On the other hand, cars that match the performance of the conventional vehicle such as Tesla products are costly and beyond the common consumer’s price range. For instance, a model S Tesla will go for close to $70,000, a price too steep for many. There is a scarcity of vehicles with high performance at lower prices. Orbach and Fruchter (2011, p. 1210) argue that the price of an electric car is bound to fall as more manufacturers commit to mass production of these models. Nevertheless, they acknowledge the challenge of the price tag that currently exists. Dijk, Orsato and Kemp (2013, p. 135) demonstrate the ease with which an electric car manufacturing plant can be set up. Due to the simple design of electric cars, it is easy to setup a functional electric car assembly plant. The implication of this factor is that mass production is possible across the world. With mass production, the current high price of electric cars is bound to come down. Low prices will attract consumers and, therefore, reduce the overall emission levels. The present argument is whether the electric car can solve the problem of global warming. With the manufacturing ease described by the scholars, the reduction of emissions is a strong possibilty.

Another criticism of the electric car is the increased cost of utility bills. Many users have to install charging ports at their homes. This attracts two major added costs; the installation and the utility bills. Charging the car at home increases the utility bill. This can be a deterrent to the use of the electric car. While the charging port in the home is not necessary in most areas, most consumers install them to reduce their anxiety over the range limitation. In countries where the electric car is gaining popularity, there are sufficient public charging stations, yet the number of home charging stations is still growing. There is a case to be made for many of these issues, yet the fact remains that electric cars are cheaper to own than the conventional car. The charging station in the home allows for convenient charging of the electric vehicle. If the family has more than one electric car, there is financial sense in installing the charging station. The electric car does not require consistent maintenance such as oil change due to its simple design. The car is efficient and, therefore, reduces wear and tear on the vehicle. The general expense associated with maintaining the car is lowered (Hidrue, et al. 2011, p. 686). Retrospectively, the cost interchange could cancel out, although the environmental implications are not considered in monetary terms. It is important to note that there is a costly battery cell change every decade, although the savings on maintenance covers this added cost.

To sum up, global warming has a significant connection to vehicular emissons. The 21st century interest in the electric car has led to substantial development in the field. The arguments presented above illustrate that the electric car is facing considerable structural and market challenges. These challenges, however, do not supercede the positive aspects of the electric car that are demonstrated in the essay. While the range problem exists, there are developments in the field that will extend the range of the electric car. The consumer choice problem is not unique to electric cars and therefore can be resolved with considerable effort. The cost paradox for the electric car is an important component of the debate. While there are added costs, it is evident that the electric car saves on many present car costs such as maintenance. Nevertheless, the most important aspect of this cost paradox is that the environmental benefit is substantial. From these points of discussion, it is clear that the electric car has the potential to solve the global warming problem. While the benefits are not obvious in the present, the long term prospects of the electric car are evident.

Reference List

Chapman, L., 2007. Transport and climate change: a review. Journal of transport geography, 15(5), pp. 354-367.

Cherubini, S., Iasevoli, G. & Michelini, L., 2015. Product-service systems in the electric car industry: critical success factors in marketing. Journal of Cleaner Production, 97(1), pp. 40-49.

Dijk, M., Orsato, R. J. & Kemp, R., 2013. The emergence of an electric mobility trajectory. Energy Policy, 52(1), pp. 135-145.

Franke, T. & Krems, J. F., 2013. What drives range preferences in electric vehicle users?. Transport Policy, 30(1), pp. 56-62.

Gerssen-Gondelach, S. J. & Faaij, A. P., 2012. Performance of batteries for electric vehicles on short and longer term. Journal of power sources, 212(1), pp. 111-129.

Hickins, M., 2014. The Morning Download: Why Tesla Is Giving Its Patents Away. [Online]
Available at: [Accessed 25 November 2015].

Hidrue, M. K., Parsons, G. R., Kempton, W. & Gardner, M. P., 2011. Willingness to pay for electric vehicles and their attributes. Resource and Energy Economics, 33(3), pp. 686-705.

Orbach, Y. & Fruchter, G. E., 2011. Forecasting sales and product evolution: The case of the hybrid/electric car. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 78(7), pp. 1210-1226.

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