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How environmentally friendly is the electric car?

Driving an electric car may seem like one of the most environmentally-friendly decisions one can make. But upon taking a closer look at the manufacturing side, it may turn out that the batteries and electricity needed for the electric car could have come from fossil fuel burning. This begs the question: what exactly is the environmental footprint of electric car?

Scientists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Industrial Ecology Programme examined the environmental costs of electric cars and published their findings in a report in this week’s issue of Nature Nanotechnology. The team provides a model for developers to use alternative nanomaterials for batteries in hopes of creating the most environmentally sustainable cars.

The report illustrates the environmental impacts of the extraction, refining, synthesis, performance, and durability and recyclability of the materials used. The team evaluated the most eco-friendly nanomaterials for building lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane hydrogen fuel cells.

“Our analysis of the current situation clearly outlines the challenge,” said the team. “The materials with the best potential environmental profiles during the material extraction and production phase…. often present environmental disadvantages during their use phase… and vice versa.”

By outlining the environmental costs of each material used to build electric cars, the team hopes that engineers will “make the right design trade-offs that optimize LIB and PEMFC nanomaterials for EV usage towards mitigating climate change.”

By Olivia Harvey, Staff Writer

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