Do Electric Cars Have an Exhaust? No, this is why…

Electric cars run on electric batteries, unlike Internal Combustion Engines that burn fuel to run. In this article, we’ll look at how electric vehicles work and why they don’t need an exhaust.

Electric cars run on rechargeable batteries; they do not employ a combustion engine or burn fossil fuels and therefore do not need or have an exhaust.

The invention of the electric vehicle has certainly brought emissions to the fore. Without an exhaust and the fumes that go along with that, they are carbon-neutral but not entirely at zero yet. Let’s examine the differences between an EV and a standard internal combustion engine car.

Tesla chassis

Differences between EV and ICE

It was way back in 1886 that Karl Benz first patented the Internal Combustion Engine. He was a German Mechanical Engineer (his company still going strong today). Although we realize the damage of emissions today, it was one of the greatest inventions of all time.

When we think of EVs, we think of Tesla and Elon, but electric vehicles have actually been around since the 1830s. There have been many different prototypes and struggles with continuity of power – much like range anxiety in the modern EV. Ultimately Ford’s Model T was one-tenth of the cost of an electric vehicle in 1910 and so was the overall winner in car manufacturing and the choice of the world going forward.

Of course, back in 1910, we didn’t know the damage that Carbon Monoxide would cause to our future selves.

But in today’s world, where only 9% of American households don’t own a car, the future of EVs is bright, with more and more of us looking to change to the electric route to save our planet.

If we look at how an electric vehicle works, we can see that it has one main component i.e., the battery. Electric vehicles need to be plugged in and charged to work. The charge is stored in the onboard lithium-ion batteries and used when the car is in motion. Due to this, we don’t have any consumable fuel as such, so there’s no need for an exhaust system.

If we look at an internal combustion engine, it is an array of moving parts. All ICE is powered by fuel (either gasoline or diesel). The fuel ignites and then combusts inside the engine. The engine then uses this energy to power the pistons, to turn a crankshaft, and ultimately to move the car. We have four distinct processes:

Intake – Compression – Combustion – Exhaust

Unfortunately, it is in the exhaust part that gives ICE its bad rep. Emissions are truly better today than they were 30 years ago, but still not as clean as an EV and never will be.

How Does an EV Run?

If we look at an EV and how clean it is, we can say that ‘Yes’ doesn’t produce the harmful NOx that ICE cars do, but it doesn’t completely negate the EV.

EVs must be charged either at home or at a charging station. The reality is that this electricity has to be produced, and, in many cases, it is produced at a power plant that is burning fossil fuels. It can be a little misleading to people who are buying EVs that think they are ultimately moving away from fossil fuels.

Of course, it’s not the same as you powering up your V6 or V8 engine and a plume of smoke exiting the tailpipe, but an EV is not entirely without its environmental effects. Many electricity plants are now using renewable energy sources such as wind or solar, but many aren’t, and many customers don’t have a say in where their electricity comes from.

EV Batteries

The resources needed to manufacture the li-ion batteries are also something that needs to be questioned. The mining of raw materials such as cobalt, predominantly in the Dominican Republic of Congo, and Lithium from Chile, must be considered. Over the car’s lifetime, it won’t equal the carbon footprint of an Ice car, but it must be factored in when we are discussing how good or bad something is for our environment.

EV Anxiety

The advantages of no exhaust obviously outweigh the disadvantages but owning an EV is not without its anxiety. I spoke recently with someone that had just purchased a new EV. They had spent $55,000 and had just completed their latest journey of 250 miles. But due to range anxiety, they did the journey with blankets on their knees and no radio! I was flabbergasted!

After spending that amount of money, turning on the heater or the radio would cause so much extra battery use that they wouldn’t have made it to their destination. Compared to a standard gasoline car that generates heat from the engine, and a couple of miles into your journey, you can enjoy cozy toes without having to think about it.

The same can be said for AC. It’s just not something we think about until we’re driving an EV. The range of EVs is getting much better, and the availability of chargers is more significant than ever across the country, but all EV owners worry about taking a trip.

If you ask an EV owner if they are glad they made the switch, they will all say yes, and that they are happy to have no exhaust but that the range anxiety is huge. That they are happy to sacrifice the heater for the sake of a few extra miles. It doesn’t really lend itself to a comfortable driving experience.

In Conclusion

Electric vehicles are a fantastic transport solution. The lack of an internal combustion engine means an electric car is, in many ways, not only cleaner but more straightforward and cheaper to build. As an electric car doesn’t have an engine, it does not need components such as an exhaust.

However, it’s not all gravy; we can’t ignore the source of our electric power, and don’t forget the cost to the environment. Mining the raw materials needed for EV batteries is a dirty business.

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John Cunningham

John Cunningham is a technical writer here at He's a Red Seal qualified Auto Service Technician with over twenty-five years experience working on Classic and Modern Cars. He's worked for GM, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Audi, and VW main dealers.

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