Electric vehicles are being hailed not only as the future of the automotive industry, but also as the harbingers of a ‘green’ revolution. But are they as environmentally friendly as we’re being led to believe?
Electric vehicles, in plain terms, don’t emit harmful emissions into the atmosphere or hazardous nitrogen oxide; unlike combustion engines. From the get go, then, they’re cleaner than the cleanest petrol and diesel vehicles. Even noise pollution is effectively dealt with, as electric vehicles are exceptionally quiet whilst on the move. It’s for these reasons that campaigners and governments across the world are working so hard to increase consumer uptake of EVs. Whether it’s through investing in charging infrastructure or offering enticing subsidies, they’re trying their best to inaugurate a post-combustion age.
Despite all of this, there is a catch and all is not as clear-cut as it might seem…
The Battery Problem
Until recently, many electric cars have been rather pricey; with many being targeted at the luxury segment. This means that they’ve been a niche for the wealthy and environmental enthusiasts. Only now is this starting to change. The trouble is, electric cars aren’t as innocent as some people seem to believe. This largely comes down to two pressing issues 1) how their batteries are produced and 2) how the electricity they use is generated.
Electric vehicles, as you might expect, use batteries instead of combustion engines. These batteries are exceptionally complex and use a wide variety of resources and raw materials. In particular, they use many rare earth components such as cobalt and nickel. Much of this is sourced in Africa, where miners are known to use child labour; the extraction process can also wreak havoc on the local environment and wildlife. Amnesty International has released a statement criticising the manufacturing process behind the batteries. It read that the batteries were currently “detrimental (to) human rights and environmental impacts.”
In addition, there’s also the expected strain EVs will place on power grids. That electricity has to come from somewhere, and it’s likely to include the use of fossil fuels and not simply ‘green’ generation methods. In Germany, a study concluded that even a million EVs would only reduce CO2 levels by 1% without radical changes in the power grid.
Are Cars A Problem In General?
Whilst Elon Musk is styling himself as a revolutionary, saving the planet from polluting cars, detractors are arguing that all cars are part of the problem. Enormous debates concerning the nature of transport and human mobility have erupted, criticising our dependence on motor vehicles carte blanche. A number of cities throughout Europe have practically banned motor vehicles from entering them. In the UK, measures are less radical but nevertheless want to restrict all but the cleanest of vehicles; as seen by London’s plans for an ‘Ultra-Low Emission Zone.’
The fact of the matter is that electric vehicles are much, much cleaner than their petrol and diesel equivalents. This is indisputable. The problems lie with what you don’t see, especially the manufacturing process. Extracting the components, putting them together and generating the necessary amount of electricity generates all of the same old problems. Until these are addressed, the ‘green’ revolution of EVs will always remain half-complete.
Here Are The Electrification Plans Of Europe’s Biggest Car Manufacturers: http://autoserve.co.uk/motoring-news/here-are-the-electrification-plans-of-europes-biggest-car-manufacturers/
The Best Electric Cars On The Market: https://www.autoserveclub.co.uk/blog/the-best-electric-cars-on-the-market/