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All cars have environmental impacts. They use non-renewable resources to manufacture, need fossil fuel or renewable energy infrastructure to power, mostly have a limited lifespan, and some of their materials (such as plastics) are difficult to reuse or recycle. The associated infrastructure (especially roads and car parks) takes up a lot of space and has its own impacts (eg, reducing vegetation and contributing to the urban heat island effect). And they all produce microplastics and airborne particulates from tyres as they wear.

From an environmental perspective, the best ways to get around are on public transport, a bicycle or your own two legs. However, if you do need a car, EVs are a no-brainer compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles powered by petrol, diesel or fossil gas. Over their lifecycle, EVs are responsible for substantially lower carbon emissions than their ICE equivalents in almost all circumstances. And they avoid the toxic local air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
 

Some EVs are better (or less worse) for the planet than others, though. A large part of any car's overall environmental impact will depend on how far and hard it is driven, and whether it is charged using renewable energy or fossil fuels. These factors are beyond the scope of the guide. What we can tell you, though, is:

  • The likely carbon emissions created in the manufacturing process (including the mining and processing of battery materials and body parts).

  • How much energy it is likely to use when driven.

  • Whether the car maker has made provision for its reuse or recycling at the end of his normal lifespan.

  • Whether it includes new technologies which contribute to a lower overall environmental impact.

Ultimately, we want to see cars become part of a "circular economy" in which waste and pollution are eliminated, products and materials are reused or recycled, and nature is regenerated.
 

Environmental impacts are likely to be only one of a number of considerations potential buyers have in mind. We are not asking you to necessarily go out and buy the cars at the top of the rankings. But equally, we would urge you to buy the car that meets your needs and has the lowest environmental impacts among the models which would meet your needs.


To read more, download the full report here (pdf - 2.4Mb).

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