Are Electric Vehicles Really Environmentally Friendly?

Regardless of whether you are a car fanatic or are really passionate about the state of the planet, you had to have heard about electric vehicles. They come with many benefits, from being quiet and easy to drive to not emitting greenhouse gases or nitrogen oxide. All of these good sides make it easy to see why many governments are encouraging the transition from conventional vehicles to electric ones.

However, these vehicles are not perfect either. The biggest issues here are certain aspects of producing and charging an EV that could be quite harmful to the environment. Read on to learn more about just how eco-friendly electric vehicles really are and what the future holds.

The Battery Production Is Quite Energy-Intensive

Even though electric vehicles seem very beneficial for the planet, people like to point out that the process of manufacturing the batteries that help them run is causing great pollution. Research conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics concluded that producing an electric car takes more than double the energy needed to make a conventional one. It is estimated that one kWh of battery capacity results in 125 kilograms of CO2 emissions.

In addition to the emissions, mining for the materials needed to produce these batteries also comes with a slew of cons. Seeing as how they are made of minerals like cobalt and copper and rare-earth elements, their production also comes with ecological consequences, with devastation in the form of polluted rivers, deforestation and contaminated soil. Plus, it’s not uncommon to hear about human rights violations of the miners.

Last but not least, most manufacturers use aluminum when making the body of an EV and in order to get this lightweight metal from bauxite ore, a huge amount of energy is necessary.

Electricity Is Still Generated in Power Plants

While the cars themselves do not emit a lot of harmful gases and nitrogen oxide, the electricity they use to charge the battery is most often generated by fossil fuels or from nuclear power, which significantly affects the climate benefits EVs provide. Moreover, these sources are not only limited but they also produce large amounts of CO2. This means that the overall footprint a battery-powered car leaves on the environment is similar to that of a combustion engine car.

However, not everything is grim. It is expected that in the future most countries will be turning to renewable sources in order to generate power and this will certainly help lessen the impact that charging EV batteries has on the environment. Moreover, while charging stations are still not readily available, as the government support increases, the infrastructure will continue to improve and more and more points for charging will be open.

Too Many Personal Vehicles Are Being Made

Of course, when in use, electric vehicles are much more energy-efficient, as well as cleaner, than those with internal combustion engines. When it comes to the environment, their performance will be even better once we start implementing more renewable sources into energy production.

However, when we take into account that more and more people might choose this type of vehicle, we cannot neglect the impact their production process will have on the planet. Having in mind how energy-intensive manufacturing electric cars is, Greenpeace has suggested we aim for lowering the number of personal vehicles and focus on making our public transport electric. Despite this, countries like Germany encourage private transport and the government is even offering incentives for buying electric cars.

Another reason why we should opt for electrifying public transport instead of purchasing personal EVs is that it will result in less traffic. Take Norway for example – they are the leading European country in EV sales but as the sales increased, public transport use dropped by 80%.

Battery Disposal Is a Concern

Disposal of electric vehicle batteries presents another potential environmental hazard. There are concerns regarding the issue of what happens to them at the end of the vehicle’s life as well as the harm its chemicals could do.

Scientists are doing their best to battle this issue and are looking into ways of maximizing the efficiency of the batteries while they are still in the vehicle. Furthermore, experts are also trying to find a way to use EVs for storing extra energy and feeding it back into the grid.

In addition to making them more efficient, engineers are developing new solutions that intend to give these batteries a second life after they are no longer used for vehicles. One of the options being explored is repurposing them for industrial processes in order to lower the overall environmental impact.

While there are some not so eco-friendly sides to electric vehicles, the benefits are still great. Yes, EVs are not fully zero-emission vehicles but progress is being made with the intent to lower their impact on the planet and these solutions are still much better than conventional ones. With big manufacturers like Volkswagen making pledges to electrify their fleets, we can look forward to seeing many more electric vehicles on our streets in the foreseeable future.

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