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  • Rushmi Rosairo

Digital Friday>>> Are Electronic Vehicles All They’re Cracked Up to be?

Picture Credit: Wevolver website

With the climate change and other environmental issues, some hope that electric vehicles will be the solution. Although, when considering the emissions during the production process and battery-charging, this leads many people to wonder about whether or not the “green” claims are all they’re cracked up to be.

Many assume that the carbon foot print of EVs is non-existent or are negligible, and while experts broadly agree, saying that electric vehicles create a lower carbon footprint in their lifetime than that of vehicles using traditional internal combustion engines, electric vehicles still use a considerable amount of fossil fuels during their manufacture process and use.

“If we are going to take a look at the current situation, in some countries, electric vehicles are better even with the current grid,” said Sergey Paltsev, a senior research scientist at the MIT Energy Initiative.

Picture Credit: Brink News website

The truth is, production, shipment and the use (charging) of a new EV is still producing heavy amounts of carbon emissions.

EVs are reliant on rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries. The process of making these batteries is energy-intensive. The whole process, including mining of raw materials (the mining practices are generally hostile and unsustainable towards the environment) to production in giga-factories, would produce approximately from 4,500kg (4.9 tonnes) to 7500kg (8.2 tonnes) of carbon to make one battery. Some researches believe that production of one battery is the equivalent of driving a fuel-powered car for one to two years. Currently, China is dominating in the production of batteries, with roughly 93 gigafactories in 2021.

The carbon emissions during transportation is second only to the production of the batteries. Although, it has to be said that this is not limited to only EVs. Generally, the transportation of anything for long distances involves using vehicles which burn fossil fuels, be it any mode of transport (planes, ships, or trucks).

Another point that should be discussed is the use of EVs. It is true that after a certain number of kilometers, most EVs tend to have a lower carbon footprint when compared to gas-powered vehicles. The main issue is when it comes to charging said electronic vehicle. They mostly pull power form the electric grid, this is an issue due to the fact that most countries still use fossil fuels to power electric grids, so at the end EVs are still burning fossil fuels. Of course, this depends highly on how and where said vehicle is being charged.

If the EV is charged in an area which obtains the residential energy by using renewable sources (such as solar power, wind, and such) and also uses those sources to charge the vehicle, then the emissions are considerably reduced.

Picture Credit: The Verge website

Studies have said that a lot of effort and research is going into improving battery technology in order to make them more sustainable and ultimately less reliant on raw materials. Although, efforts need to be doubled in the decarbonising of electricity grids in order for EVs to achieve their full green potential. Experts state that this process could take decades.

Eric Hannon, a Frankfurt-based partner at McKinsey & Company states that;

“When you look forward to the rest of the decade, where we will see massive amounts of decarbonization in power generation and massive amount of decarbonization in the industrial sector, EVs will benefit from all of that decarbonization.”

So the answer is yes, electronic vehicles could do our environment a great deal of good, but in order for it to achieve its full potential, changes have to be made worldwide.

April 22nd 2022 | 9:00 PM

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