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China's electric cars are actually pretty dirty

Consumers bought more than 300,000 last year, expect 5 million on the road by 2020


electric cars, global emissions

Could China, the world’s largest automobile market, help address the threat of if it went completely electric? 

The answer isn’t as obvious as it seems. has been making great strides toward Electric vehicle sales are booming: Consumers bought more than 300,000 last year, and more than 5 million are expected to be on the road by 2020. 

Encouraging as that may be, though, the move away from conventional and won’t immediately reduce the country’s On the contrary, the production of in actually produces more and consumes more overall In the short run, China’s moves could make go up, not down.

seem environmentally benign. But the reality is more complex. Their manufacture entails energy-intensive mining of rare elements, such as the lithium required for their batteries. 

Developed nations get the best results, because they tend to generate electricity using cleaner sources. 

The real challenge to reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be in — especially China, which is likely to dominate the global auto market for decades to come. Unfortunately, the structure of China’s industrial economy will make it difficult. One recent study by Chinese engineers estimated that generate about a 50 percent increase in both greenhouse gas emissions and total consumption over their life cycle. The manufacture of the alone accounts for 13 per cent of the consumption and 20 per cent of the emissions.

The most promising ways to make better have little to do with the vehicles themselves. infrastructure matters more. In China, electricity production still relies quite heavily on including Hence, both the manufacturing of the batteries and the operation of the vehicle produce more than they would elsewhere.