Are The EVs Really As Green As They Claim To Be?

Author - Midhili P

Electric and Hybrid vehicles are all the rage right now. With the 2001 UN Intergovernmental panel on climate change report along with the recent government guidelines and all the flashy new Tesla models around, it seems like we are well on our way to slowly switching completely away from fossil fuel powered vehicles. In fact, a recent projection from Bloomberg NEF puts the US on track to hit the key target set by President Biden last year for half of all cars sold in the US to be battery-electric, plug-in hybrid or fuel cell-powered by the end of the decade. Now all this begs the question, are EVs really all that they are advertised to be? The short answer is yes. EVs as well as plug-in hybrids operating at all electric mode emit 67 per cent less green house gases than your traditional IC engine vehicles and have zero tailpipe emission. The long answer however, is a bit more complicated than that. While experts of the field all broadly agree that plug-in vehicles are a more eco-friendly option than the traditional vehicles, EVs will still have their own environmental impacts, depending on how they’re manufactured and charged up. Written below is a detailed guide about the different aspects of EV and how they affect the environment and how they fare in comparison to traditional ICE vehicles.

The Process Of Manufacturing The EV –

A car, be it a conventional one or an EV or a hybrid, are all manufactured using the same cycle, which starts with the extraction and refining of raw materials, which is then transported and manufactured into several components, which in turn is assembled to produce the car itself. However, at the end of the entire manufacturing process, it is the electric cars that generate more carbon emission. This is because of the fact that electric cars store energy in large batteries that tends to have high environmental costs due to the fact that these batteries are made of rare earth elements or REE, like lithium, nickel, cobalt etc that only exists beneath the surface of the earth and therefore requires the kind of mining activities which are very polluting. Apart from the weight of the REE, a high amount of energy is necessary to produce the batteries themselves which will also contribute to the high negative impact on the environment. Nevertheless, research is going on and forecasts predicts that the electricity generation is improving and that there will be more renewable sources entering the grid in the future, which would help decrease the ecological footprint built up by these batteries.

The Process Of Making The Electricity For Charging The EV–

When you assess the greenhouse emission of an EV from the perspective of a full life cycle of the vehicle, the electricity used to recharge the batteries must be generated from renewable or clean sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, or nuclear power for PEVs to have almost none or zero well-to-wheel emissions. Let’s say, an EV is drawing its power from an average power grid in the United States. Typically, most of these grids are a mix of fossil fuels and renewable power plants, which means that the EVs will almost always be much greener than conventional cars. Therefore, even if EVs are more emissions-intensive to manufacture because of their batteries, their electric motors are more efficient than traditional IC engines that burn fossil fuels, thus making them greener as well. Moreover, if we make our grids zero-carbon, then the vehicle emissions can even be taken up to zero.

What Happen To The Battery After Its Life Cycle Is Over –

According to a study from the international council of clean transportation, in the conventional car industry, 99% of lead-acid batteries are recycled in the US. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the lithium-ion batteries used in the EVs that have a very specific mix of chemical components and little quantities of lithium, which makes them an unappealing market opportunity. This puts the EVs at a significant disadvantage as far as eco-friendliness is concerned. Nevertheless, since the electric car market is growing rapidly, the chances are that a recycling industry for these batteries will slowly develop, thus allowing electric cars to become greener.

 

Research to make electric cars greener and more eco-friendly and sustainable are continuing to be developed. And even though there is still plenty of room for improvement, electric cars, as they are today, are already more eco-friendly along their life-cycle than the conventional fossil fuel cars, especially if they are powered with clean electricity.

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