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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?

Are electric cars so environmentally friendly?
Are electric cars so environmentally friendly?

Have you ever asked yourself: Will electromobility remain ecological if you measure the carbon footprint coming from the production of the car and the supply of electricity along with the consumption of EVs? The automotive industry is preparing to face an epochal energy transition aimed at transforming our mobility. But how good are electric cars for the climate and the environment? Haven’t asked yet? This is the time for it!

Despite appearances, even electric cars are not perfect and could be very harmful to the environment. The reason lies in the energy stored to make them work. Batteries contain various elements like lithium, which needs a significant amount of energy to be extracted and processed. An electric car emits CO from its production to its disposal. It mainly depends on the source of the electricity used to charge the battery.

A 2014 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the emissions of an electric vehicle, from extracting the metals needed to make the batteries to produce the electricity needed to operate and then compared the results with the average emissions of a vehicle equipped with a gas engine.

carbon footprint of an electric car

the carbon footprint of an electric car

The team found that when electric cars are charged with electricity produced by burning coal, they are much more harmful to the environment than gasoline-powered cars on the market today. We must point out that in many parts of the planet, national grids are clean enough for electric vehicles to beat their gasoline-powered counterparts when it comes to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime.

The carbon footprint of an electric car is better as a function of the amount of electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources. Precisely because renewable energies are increasingly replacing fossil fuels in electricity generation, the shift to electric cars is making an ever greater contribution to climate protection.

Adequate processes already exist today for the industrial recycling of electric vehicle batteries which means that raw materials like cobalt, lithium, aluminum, and copper recover. Another possibility could be the “2nd life” use of batteries, like static batteries for storing electricity at home. After all, a battery usually doesn’t break after 200,000 kilometers, only its storage capacity decreases, but this is less important for stationary electricity storage than for the car. It may be possible that in a few years, electric cars will be banned due to too high electrosmog emissions.

Doesn’t the future belong instead to hydrogen and gas?

We don’t think so, because battery electric motors are much more efficient than all the others. At least as far as passenger cars are concerned, battery-powered cars are interesting because they will soon be able to meet virtually all needs, provided the charging infrastructure expands accordingly. Solutions will have to be found for those who do not live in single-family homes and who do not have their charging system. The situation may be different for trucks, especially for long distances with heavy loads, fuel cell vehicles that use hydrogen as fuel could be used in the future. Batteries – at least today – do not yet offer a sufficiently high energy storage density for such applications.

Doesn't the future belong instead to hydrogen and gas?

Doesn’t the future belong instead to hydrogen and gas?

We increasingly see delivery vans and battery-powered pickup trucks as an emission-free alternative to diesel vehicles in small freight distribution. Gas-powered vehicles are particularly environmentally friendly if the gas is produced from biodegradable organic waste or similar renewable raw materials. However, these are not available in sufficient quantities to replace gasoline and diesel on a large scale.

And what about solar energy in circulation?

Solar energy can and must play an important role in transport. Generating electricity from solar energy has great potential, so we need to find a way to use this electricity as fuel for cars, thanks to energy storage, as battery-powered cars are not always connected when the sun is shining. The batteries can be placed in the basement, which stores the electricity generated at noon and releases it to the cars at night. For long periods, however, solar energy can also be stored in the form of hydrogen or synthetic fuels (e.g. synthetic natural gas). Solar energy is converted into hydrogen using electrolysis, which can be further processed with CO to produce synthetic fuels if necessary.

Are hybrid cars greener than electric cars?

Are hybrid cars greener than electric cars?

Are hybrid cars greener than electric cars?

Electric motors are better than combustion engines in terms of efficiency. As far as hybrids are concerned, most of the driving energy comes from the combustion engine. For hybrids, electric motors are only used to support the combustion engine – but this can still result in fuel savings of up to 30%.

Wrapping up

In short: electric cars make it possible to emit fewer greenhouse gases and pollutants than traditional vehicles and certainly reduce the impact on the climate and the environment. On the other hand, the increase in the production and use of cars creates an ecological and climatic pressure on the system, the switch to electric motors and the recycling of raw materials are not enough to compensate. The electrification of road transport is not a miraculous solution and must be accompanied by adequate measures to make it truly sustainable. It is a question, for example, of accelerating the energy transition, definitively abandoning fossil fuels, and investing in the production of renewable and clean energy. It is also about making sure that vehicles last a long time, cushion the additional energy required by the production process, and that the materials used are not wasted, to reduce the pressure on resources, ecosystems, and mining communities.

It is also necessary to reorganize urban mobility and the way we move, betting on public transport, soft mobility, and zero-emission solutions, and building cities on a human scale, not cars. The coronavirus crisis constitutes an opportunity in this sense, having already pushed many cities, from Milan to Brussels to Paris, to rethink urban spaces to offer more space for cyclists and pedestrians. As often happens in the climate and environmental fields, technological innovation is necessary but not sufficient to win the challenge if we do not dare to rethink the system and the dynamics that created it. And if driving an electric car is more sustainable than driving a petrol one, (Calculate the running cost of EV & fuel vehicle) the most sustainable solution will still be driving as few cars as possible.

This article is written as a guest post by Shayma Shamim, KAZAM

Scion Energy Storage – One of India’s leading lithium battery technology company

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