Are Electric Vehicles Solution To Climate Change?
By Yemi Olakitan
Since 2017, the number of cars powered by fossil fuels sold worldwide has decreased, from 86 million in 2017 to 69 million in 2022.
On the other hand, sales of electric cars climbed by 60% in 2022 and are expected to continue rising in 2023, capturing over 20% of the worldwide auto market.
It’s critical to define which cars qualify as electric vehicles. In these assessments, the word “EV” is used interchangeably to refer to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (also known as “PHEVs”) and pure electric vehicles (also known as “BEVs,” or battery electric vehicles).
Batteries are the only power source used by BEVs’ electric motors to propel the car. The most well-known example is the Tesla. PHEVs are vehicles that combine an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.
The capacity of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to run a considerable distance only on battery power sets them apart from hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).
HEVs, like the well-known Toyota Prius, do not fall under the definition of an EV because their battery systems are comparatively small, they do not need to be plugged in to the electrical grid, and they are only meant to supplement the internal combustion engine with greater fuel efficiency rather than to replace it.
In the UK, electric battery vehicles are currently outselling diesel vehicles, and in China, they account for 26% of all automobile sales.
What about the increased demand for power and all the additional mining required for electric vehicles? Rather than creating more cars, shouldn’t we be converting to bicycles, trains, and buses instead?
Is there a chance that, in the end, electrifying the auto industry may just result in a different set of issues?
Automobile that runs on batteries is unquestionably more environmentally friendly than one that runs on fossil fuel. Not only will cities have cleaner air and less noise pollution, but internal combustion engines waste more than 70% of the fuel’s energy due to their extreme inefficiency.
An average electric automobile made in the EU uses about 60% less energy and produces a third of the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) of a gasoline-powered vehicle over the course of its lifetime.
An electric automobile emits 33% less greenhouse gas per kilometer than a gasoline car, even in China, a country that uses a lot of coal.
These savings will only increase with the globalization of electricity.
About 30 kilos of fresh material must be extracted in order to produce one lithium ion battery for an electric vehicle.
However, this amount is insignificant when compared to the tons of gasoline or diesel required to continuously fill a fuel tank.
Over its lifespan, an electric car would require 10,000kg less fossil fuel extraction than a gasoline car based on the present energy mix in the UK; even an electric car powered primarily by coal would require 2,500 kg less fossil fuel than a gasoline car.
A lithium automobile battery can stop hundreds of times more material extraction than is needed to manufacture it, even on today’s power networks.
This is already having an effect on us. According to reports, the demand for oil in transportation will peak by 2027 as a result of the present surge in electric vehicle sales.
This prediction might have a profound effect on the global oil sector. Many of the infrastructure and oil drilling projects that are now under development could be destroyed by an oil price collapse brought on by a drop in demand.
There are a few more important things to think about before we jump to replace every fossil fuel vehicle on the road with an electric vehicle.
The same amount of road space is occupied by electric cars as by fossil fuel vehicles, which slows buses, clogs up traffic, discourages riding, and increases the chance of accidents, with the poorest people typically bearing the brunt of these consequences.
The air is still contaminated by tire particles, and there would no longer be the significant improvements in public health that come from increasing walking and cycling.
EVs require significantly less mining of minerals than fossil cars, but they still need to come from someplace. Native American organizations have cautioned that by 2040, the demand for nickel, lithium, zinc, and copper would have quadrupled worldwide if all fossil fuel-powered vehicles were replaced with electric vehicles.
The majority of these material extraction projects are situated on or close to Indigenous land, and communities claim they already face violence, harassment, and displacement as a result.
To stop any mining without the free, prior, and informed agreement of the local people, strict international regulations are desperately needed.
Going by the above, the transition to renewable grids would be considerably more difficult if all automobiles were electric. This would also significantly increase the demand for electricity. When there aren’t many readily available options, EVs can be useful.
However, they also run the risk of fostering our dependence on personal vehicles, unending road construction, and car culture.
The transition to greener mobility still needs to be led by trains, buses, and bicycles in order to prevent a hazardous surge in demand for electricity and essential minerals as well as to clear our clogged cities.
The good news is that this area is also electrifying, which reduces the amount of fossil fuels used in public transportation and encourages more people to leave their automobiles behind. The electric bike is the sort of electric vehicle that is expanding the fastest outside of the US, EU, and China.
Contrary to popular belief, the location and timing of electric vehicle charging are important factors.
The potential of electric cars (EVs) to lower greenhouse gas emissions from petroleum-powered vehicles is one of the strongest arguments in favor of EV growth on a global scale. The development of batteries to power the electrical systems is a major source of uncertainty in projections on the rise of EV use over the next 25 years.
Electric vehicles have a bright future if new batteries with a considerably higher energy density and lower cost can be manufactured. There is some reason for hope with the upcoming market release of new electric vehicles (EVs) like the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt, but there are still many unknowns.
However, we shouldn’t let uncertain developments stop us from analyzing what we now know about how EVs will impact climate change. Certain electric vehicle manufacturers, such as Nissan, who markets their Leaf model as a “zero emission vehicle,” want people to think that since the car doesn’t produce any emissions, it has no adverse effects on the environment.
The idea has been thoroughly refuted, leaving only the question of how big of an impact the automobiles actually have on the climate. There is no easy answer, despite the fact that numerous research have attempted to properly address the subject.
The less successful EVs are in reducing carbon emissions, the more carbon heavy the grid is (mostly from burning coal). The patterns of power generation inside a nation are the subject of the second level. Since few nations rely solely on one grid for their electrical needs, it’s critical to consider variations across various geographic scales.
Research conducted in the US and Canada shows significant regional variance in the sources of electricity generation. The temporal component, or the season and time of day that owners charge their cars, makes up the third level of analysis.
Electric vehicles have a bright future if new batteries with a considerably higher energy density and lower cost can be manufactured.
These analyses demonstrate that EV adoption on a large scale is not enough to reduce transportation-related carbon emissions on its own. There is a need to integrate more clean and renewable energy into electricity grids.
Less well known but equally crucial is the need for electricity companies to give incentives for EV recharging during peak renewable energy generation periods. This is not the situation at the moment, at least not in the United States, as it has been revealed.