Key takeaways

  • Your carbon footprint is the amount of emissions you release into the environment.
  • Driving an electric vehicle reduces your carbon footprint by lowering lifetime emissions.
  • EV-focused lenders, like Tenet, may offer you special rates and perks on loans for EVs.

According to NASA, 97 percent of scientists agree that humans cause climate change. So, it’s unsurprising that many people are taking steps to decrease their personal environmental impact.

For some, this means getting behind the wheel of an electric vehicle. In 2023, American EV sales surged to 7.6 percent of all new vehicles sold, according to Cox Automotive.

If a climate-conscious vehicle is a top priority for you, consider how driving an EV impacts your carbon footprint. Though there’s a carbon cost for manufacturing and charging EVs, studies indicate their lifetime carbon footprint is far lower than driving a conventional car.

What is a carbon footprint?

Your carbon footprint is the amount of emissions that you are responsible for releasing into the environment. Carbon emissions add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. That contributes to human-driven climate change.

Every time you drive your gas-powered vehicle, you release carbon emissions into the air, increasing your carbon footprint.

But your carbon footprint also includes emissions you’re indirectly responsible for. That includes charging an EV using electricity produced by a coal power plant.

You don’t need a degree in environmental science to drive electric and help the planet. But understanding how your time behind the wheel of an EV affects your carbon footprint can help to make you a more empowered consumer.

How driving an electric car reduces your carbon footprint

EVs have no tailpipe emissions. Making electricity to charge the vehicle can still create carbon pollution.

However, an electric car study conducted by The Wall Street Journal reveals that over a lifetime, EV emissions are significantly less than fuel-powered vehicles. Less emissions equal a reduction of carbon footprint.

Think of it this way. A driver covering 15,000 miles behind the wheel of a 2022 Camry will emit 11,177 pounds of carbon per year.

Compare that to someone driving a 2022 Hyundai Kona, an EV. The Kona will release only 2,779 pounds of carbon in the same amount of time, according to NYSEG data.

Your actual EV emissions depend on how electricity in your ZIP code is generated.

If you want a more granular view of your EV’s impacts, take advantage of the U.S. Department of Energy’s greenhouse calculator, which factors in your hometown electrical grid.

How to calculate your carbon emissions

To compare and contrast how driving an EV will impact your footprint, use an emissions calculator that finds CO2 based on vehicle MPG and miles driven.

EV batteries’ impact on the environment

As critics note, manufacturing an EV’s battery creates more pollution than manufacturing a typical gasoline vehicle. A sedan powered by a battery will have a higher initial carbon footprint than a conventional sedan.

However, according to research published in IOP Science, the two footprints match after an average of one and a half years. The EV does not continue to release carbon, whereas the gas-powered sedan does. From that point on, the EV will boast a lower lifetime carbon footprint than the ICE vehicle.

And many companies are working towards a recycling system to reduce the carbon cost of producing batteries. This recycling push will lower emissions created during the production process and lower overall negative environmental impacts.

How to finance an eco-friendly vehicle

Electric vehicles usually have a higher upfront cost than gas-powered options. The average new EV cost $54,021 in March 2024, according to Kelley Blue Book. This is compared to $47,218 for a new gas-powered vehicle.

When shopping for an EV, consider checking out legacy brands that boast more accessible prices. The 2024 Nissan Leaf, for example, starts at $28,140. Choosing a used over a new EV may also help you save.

You may also qualify for special EV rates and other perks with EV lenders like Tenet.

Consider the following steps to get an EV auto loan.

1. Check your credit standing. Lenders will look at your credit history. The better your credit score is, the lower your auto loan rates will be, which is especially important as EVs tend to cost more.

2. Prequalify with at least three lenders. The lender market is expansive. To find the best loan for your needs, compare at least three quotes. Prequalifying lets you see rates and terms without damaging your score with a hard credit pull. Consider online lenders, banks and credit unions when shopping around. If you struggle to prequalify due to your credit score, try getting quotes from bad credit lenders.

3. Apply for the loan. Before you start filling out the application, gather the needed documentation to save time.

4. Sign off. Once you have found the best loan for your needs, you can begin making payments and navigating toward full EV ownership.

EV tax credits

You can offset the cost of buying an EV by taking advantage of tax credits. Check out our guide on making the most of the credits.

The bottom line

When buying your next vehicle, consider switching to an EV. You won’t just make small steps to improve the climate by lowering your carbon footprint. You’ll also benefit from the added perks of money saved and advanced technology.