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Is my electric vehicle making the world a better place? There are many reasons I decided to go electric when I bought a new car in early 2022, but the right to feel smug about my choice wasn’t high up on the list.

I’m painfully aware that my car – any car – is a menace. I’m reminded of this whenever I’m merging onto a soulless eight-lane highway, driving on a freshly salted winter road, topping up my windshield washer fluid or being sneered at by a cyclist.

Don’t get me wrong: My EV’s zero emissions are a big improvement over the fumes from my previous gasoline-burning car, which makes me happy.

In Ontario, where I live, 92 per cent of our electricity is generated from nuclear, hydroelectricity, wind and solar, which means that the power I use to charge my car’s battery is certainly a lot cleaner than oil-based automotive fuel.

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Even in areas where more electricity is generated from coal and other fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, EVs still make a lot of sense.

The Texas power grid, for example, relied on natural gas and coal for more than 59 per cent of its energy use last year, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Nonetheless, EVs are an environmentally sound choice in the Lone Star State.

The U.S. Department of Energy offers an online tool to calculate total greenhouse gas emissions for any vehicle in any state. While fully electric vehicles have no emissions, the tool takes into account upstream emissions associated with electricity generation.

I used a Houston zip code and found that total emissions for my car, a Hyundai Ioniq 5 with a standard battery, were 130 grams a mile. That’s a lot more than zero – but also a lot cleaner than 410 grams a mile for an average new gas-powered vehicle after including emissions associated with fuel production, according to the Energy Department.

And remember, that’s Texas. The greener a state or province’s energy mix, the cleaner an EV looks.

In San Francisco, where coal accounts for just 3 per cent of California’s energy mix, my car’s total emissions would drop to just 80 grams a mile, or less than 20 per cent of an average gas-burning vehicle.

EVs will look even better as coal plants and other fossil-fuel plants are retired in favour of renewable energy sources in many areas of the world, including Canada and the United States.

That’s why the shift to EVs is being encouraged by governments and even mandated with long-term targets for new car sales: EVs get cleaner as the electricity grid gets cleaner.

So yes, my choice of vehicle adds to my green credentials, for what they’re worth, and reduces my carbon footprint from what it was when I drove a conventional car.

But I’m under no illusion that my EV has no impact on the environment.

I sold my previous gas-burning car, which means that my EV did not displace an internal-combustion engine but merely added one more car to our clogged roads. And I’m pretty sure that the squirrel I ran over last summer didn’t care that it met its grisly end under the wheel of a zero-emissions vehicle.

As well, a number of observers point out that EVs aren’t made out of thin air.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), EVs emit significantly more greenhouse gases during the manufacturing process, because of their batteries. EVs only look better, the IEA notes, when the gas consumption of conventional vehicles is taken into account. Then, a typical internal-combustion engine vehicle emits three times the pollutants of an EV over the life cycle of a vehicle.

I’m not being critical of EV ownership in pointing out that the cars are far from being environmentally pure. Instead, I’m wondering if perhaps EVs would appeal to a broader group of potential owners if the cars didn’t come with so much environmental weight.

I mention this because some of the pushback against EVs – often in the form of comments about articles such as this one – comes from people who believe the cars are an expensive lifestyle choice that is prone to hypocrisy.

Can EV owners claim to be green, the criticism goes, when their cars rely on batteries? For that matter, aren’t EV owners also guilty of flying in airplanes, eating burgers and chilling in air-conditioned homes?

That’s a heavy burden on an EV owner who simply wants to get to her office or load up on a weekend jaunt to Costco.

Here’s a better way of looking at EVs: They’re good cars that are cheap to operate and cool to drive. Presumably, these are qualities that just about anyone can embrace, without feeling the need to make a statement on whether they prefer granola or red meat.

And if EVs just happen to put significantly less strain on the environment, that’s good, too.