Electric motors are so cool that diesel locomotives have been using them for decades—they use a diesel engine to run a generator, which feeds the electric motor, which drives the wheels. I also love the silence of electric motors.
There’s definitely a use for electric motors. Can we jump to the conclusion that they are environmentally friendlier than combustion? Can we conclude batteries are environmentally friendlier than oil?
The answer is that any such conclusion would be premature unless we answer some questions first. What is the energy cost of battery construction? What is the battery’s lifetime? How hazardous is battery production and recycling? How hazardous are batteries in accidents? Also, batteries need power to charge and this power comes from other sources. How much oil do we need to burn per unit of energy stored in the battery? If the energy comes from another source, what other environmental effects does the source of energy has?
These questions concern environmental friendliness only; the problems of specific energy and time to charge remain.