Automakers such as General Motors, Tesla, and Toyota have ground-breaking plans under their umbrellas, the enthusiasm around electric cars (EVs) is getting bigger and more real with increasing awareness on climate change and the related impacts on the environment.
While most of the researchers and experts agree to this notion, there are others who believe that there are certain behind the curtain factors that might be a little different from how they are popular known.
Here we are shedding a low wattage light on how the electric cars are energy intensive during their manufacturing stage, while energy is being produced for them, and after they have completed their lifecycle. Let’s dig into each:
Dig deeper into manufacturing process
The process of manufacturing electric cars begins with the preparation of their lithium-ion batteries. These materials are extracted from the earth in conventional ways that require huge pollution sources. The rare earth elements such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, etc. are mined from the earth surface.
The negative environmental impacts of extracting these minerals from the earth along with the process used for manufacturing the batteries from fossil-fuel based energy sources paints an ironic picture.
Additionally, the energy needed for smelting aluminium, and preparing and assembling the parts and components of electric cars releases the same or even more amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
The number of emissions released at this point is way more than a gasoline-run counterpart even when electric ones have no tailpipe emissions.
After an electric car has run for about 200,000 miles which is equivalent to an average normal car’s lifespan, it is likely to have released about 36 tons of GHG emissions.
In the beginning of the driving lifecycle of an electric car and a gasoline-run car, the emissions get to become almost the same. This can be termed as the “indirect pollution” caused by the electric cars.
Intensive energy demand
Even if these cars are environmentally-safe, the energy used for charging their batteries clearly doesn’t come from low carbon sources, thus the environmental impacts can be said to be exactly zero. This energy in most of the cases comes from conventional oil, gas, or coal sources rather than the cleaner sources of energy such as solar and wind.
Rather than shifting to newer kinds of transportation ways, a better choice would be to switch to greener sources of energy. Similarly, opting for public commute, more walk, alternative sources of transport, and lesser usage of powered vehicles is more likely to lead to better results for the environment.
In addition, the time needed for charging an electric car would not be the same as the time it takes for you to recharge a mobile or a laptop. The charging hours for these cars can be an extensive as 12 hours and can result in elaborate electricity bills and more energy usage.
The disposal phase
By 2030 there will be around 30 million electric cars on European roads. Imagine the e-waste that the batteries, and dismantled parts of these cars will make in the years to come. At present only about 5% of the lithium-ion batteries are being recycled.
The policy makers and automakers must not believe that their duty comes to an end after the cars have reached the consumers, the way these are dumped after their death is also very crucial. The old batteries must be recycled for recovering the useful materials out of these.
However, if these are simply dumped into landfills or incinerators these cars can become potential environmental hazard in the future.
Thinking from another perspective it can be said that due to the better longevity and improved battery life of electric cars these will remain on the face of the earth for a longer time before being discarded or recycled. The better life span would mean more electricity usage hence greater environmental damage.
These are just a very few of the factors that reflect that electric cars are not the sole and wholesome answer to the climate problem. It needs to be coupled with societal change, changes in our behaviour’s, reduction in the usage of private vehicles, a switch to public transport, governmental and policy reforms, and longer, more lasting solutions that need to be put into practice.
However, it would not be incorrect to say that electric cars are undoubtedly the future of the auto industry. With greater economy of scale and better manufacturing methods, the production as well as the overall technology will become more sustainable and eco-friendlier. In addition to decarbonization of electricity grid, better electricity generation methods and the switch to renewables will together be the solution to the climate change issue.