Do Electric Vehicles Have Catalytic Converters?

Automobiles use catalytic converters to change the toxic emissions from an internal combustion engine into non-toxic gasses and water. Do electric vehicles have catalytic converters if they do not use internal combustion to run?

Electric vehicles do not have catalytic converters. Unlike gasoline-powered cars, electric vehicles do not have an internal combustion engine that releases harmful emissions and do not need catalytic converters.  

Manufacturers of electric vehicles say cars that run on batteries instead of gasoline are better for the environment. However, that may not be completely true. In this article, we will compare the environmental cost of vehicles with and without catalytic converters. 

What Is The Environmental Impact of Electric Vehicles That Do Not Have Catalytic Converters?

Electric vehicles do not release harmful emissions when driven because the batteries that power the cars do not release gasses during the vehicle’s operation. The real harm of electric cars comes from the vehicle manufacturing process and old battery disposal.

The Difference Between Batteries In Electric And Gas-Powered Vehicles

The batteries used in electric vehicles are different from those used in gasoline-powered cars. Electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries, while gasoline-powered vehicles use lead-acid batteries. 

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Mining lithium to make lithium-ion batteries has an environmental cost. Most of the mining equipment runs on fossil fuels which emit carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Mining also creates sulfuric acid, which has an additional environmental impact. 

Once lithium-ion batteries are too old to be used, they should be recycled to keep them out of landfills. They are hazardous, causing fires that burn in landfills for years if they are not disposed of properly. 

Lead-Acid Batteries

The lead-acid batteries used in gasoline-powered vehicles have different hazards associated with their use. The sulfuric acid and lead within these batteries can contaminate the environment if they are not disposed of correctly. 

The advantage of lead-acid batteries over lithium-ion batteries is that lead-acid batteries are recyclable. The lead can be reused, and the sulfuric acid can be safely decomposed. Recycling lithium-ion batteries are dangerous because they are highly flammable.

Impact Of Infrastructure To Make And Use Electric Vehicles

The infrastructure to produce electric vehicles releases carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Fabrication of the vehicle body and components and production of replaceable parts release greenhouse gasses. These parts include:

  • Fluids 
  • Tires
  • Brakes
  • Hoses
  • Filters 

Periodically replacing these parts does have an environmental cost. But the costs associated with the production and disposal of the lithium-ion batteries required to power these vehicles are even greater.

Recharging the lithium-ion battery also has a cost. Electricity used to power electric cars often comes from grid power. Most electrical grids are still coal-powered, contributing to carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.

Use Of Rare Earth Metals

Manufacturing the most efficient electric cars requires the use of Rare Earth Metals. Mining these metals is generally hazardous to the environment. In addition, China controls most of the magnetic rare earth metals necessary for many electric engines. 

Because these metals are rare, acquiring them in sufficient quantities to manufacture electric vehicles is often expensive. The rare earth metals most used to manufacture the magnets used in electric vehicles include:

  • Neodymium
  • Cerium
  • Lanthanum
  • Dysprosium

What Is The Environmental Impact Of Gasoline-Powered Vehicles With a Catalytic Converter?

Burning gasoline produces harmful emissions that pollute our atmosphere. Even though the catalytic converter installed in a gasoline-powered vehicle reduces those harmful emissions, some emissions still escape. 

Environmental Impact of Gas-Powered Vehicles Alone

The biggest pollutants from gas-powered vehicles come from the release of carbon dioxide that occurs during vehicle operation. Carbon emissions pollute the atmosphere, and in highly urbanized areas, can contribute to the creation of smog, which is a human health hazard.

The average passenger vehicle annually releases 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Its internal combustion engine also releases small amounts of methane and nitrous oxide. Even in small amounts, these gasses can negatively contribute to warming our planet. 

Environmental Impact Of Infrastructure To Make And Use Gas-Powered Vehicles

Extracting, refining, and transporting gasoline for vehicles emits greenhouse gases. This means that the environmental impact of internal combustion engines extends beyond the car itself. 

Similar to electric vehicles, building a gas-powered car emits harmful gasses and other toxins into the environment. This happens when mining and refining the ores that create vehicle components, during tire manufacturing, and for every other aspect of car manufacturing.

Interestingly, the carbon emissions that result from building a gasoline-powered car can be similar to the emissions of driving an internal combustion vehicle throughout its life. 

Do Hybrid Cars Have Catalytic Converters?

Hybrid cars split the difference in carbon dioxide emissions between electric and gasoline-powered vehicles. These cars can run on either a lithium-ion battery or gasoline. Because hybrid vehicles have an internal combustion engine, they do have a catalytic converter.

Producing hybrid vehicles has the same environmental costs as gasoline-powered and electric vehicles. The overall emissions, however, are far less than those of gas-powered cars. Their reduced emissions give them a carbon footprint only a little greater than that of electric cars.

Because hybrid vehicles do not heavily use their catalytic converters, the lifespan of this car component is much longer than in gasoline-powered cars. However, this makes hybrid vehicles a target for thieves that steal catalytic converters.   

The increased threat of catalytic converter theft from hybrid vehicles has a hidden cost that gasoline-powered and electric cars do not have. Insurance companies will not always pay to replace a stolen catalytic converter. In addition, replacements are expensive and hard to find. 


Electric vehicles do not have a catalytic converter, but hybrid and gasoline-powered vehicles do.  All three vehicle types have environmental costs associated with their production and operation. Electric vehicles have a lower carbon footprint overall, while gasoline-powered cars have the greatest. 

Hybrid vehicles are a great choice for people who want to keep their options open while keeping their carbon footprint low. Unfortunately, catalytic converter thieves create a hidden cost associated with hybrids.