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It’s a toxic argument, because in practice it’s used to absolve diesel or gas cars entirely. It‘s also a way of missing the forest for the trees. Gas cars can never be clean, electric cars are in fact cleaner from the get go and have the potential to be (nearly) entirely clean. Building a world where that is possible requires a large investment in infrastructure and that will only happen if there is a large scale switchover to electric cars.

You are certainly not wrong when you say that also electric cars pollute, but you should be aware of how and when and why this kind of argument is usually deployed.

You can't say they're cleaner from the get go. They could rely on such a different set of polutant products that you can't compare them in general. Also building one electric car when the production chain doesn't exist is obviously going to pollute much more than one has vehicle with its existing infrastructure. It's because we consider the industrial evolution and the usage lifetime that we can compare the two and EVs might be considered less pollutant (even though once again you're comparing very different kinds of pollution). It's not because they seem much better in theory that you should give the EV industry any favorable bias—they need to be held accountable even more than the existing industry because they will probably shape the future of the automotive industry.

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