Electric cars may not be the green panacea they are billed as and may themselves cause pollution, adding toxic lead from their batteries to the environment.
Unless alternative batteries are developed, the cars may cause serious threats to public health even as they reduce smog, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
"We got the lead out of gasoline," said Chris Hendrickson, one of the researchers. "I'd hate to see us slide back and release lots more lead in the environment."
A conventional car uses a single lead-acid battery primarily for starting. An electric car may use two-dozen batteries or more, with a proportional increase in lead content. Those batteries would have to be replaced every 36,000 miles, according to the study.
Emissions from mining, smelting, and recycling the lead needed for batteries would expose those near industrial sites to dangerous doses of lead, researchers say.
Electric cars owe their popularity in part to the Clean Air Act, which set tough standards for limiting the level of ozone. …