Electric vehicles are commonly known as zero-emission vehicles but they only show one side of the picture. Are they really as green as they are presumed to be? There is more to them than meets the eye. Let’s take a look at the other side of electric vehicles.
Even though most of the world is planning to shift to electric vehicles by the mid of the century, they might not be doing the environment as big a favor as they presume. MIT published a research that showed the electric Tesla Model S P100D saloon produces more carbon dioxide, at 226g per kilometer than a petrol-driven run-around such as the Mitsubishi Mirage, which is responsible for just 192g/km.
How is this possible as the cars have no exhaust? There are a number of ways these cars are adding to the pollution and we’ll go through them one by one.
First and foremost, the electric vehicles need regular charging of their batteries. Now the electricity needs to come from somewhere and it most commonly comes from the National Grid. The National Grid does not produce this energy through greener and cleaner ways. Less than 25% of the energy is produced by renewable energy technologies. 51% of it is by burning fossil fuels and 21% comes from nuclear power. Increasing number of cars to be charged results in a greater number of these fuels being burned and adding to the pollution.
The second problem lies in the size and weight of these vehicles. We want those vehicles that can give the highest mileage. They require bigger batteries, bigger bodies, and more charging. If the drivers really want to make an impact on pollution, they need to make their cars smaller. As Nico Meilhan, a car analyst and energy expert explained to the Financial Times: “If we really cared about CO2, we’d reduce car size and weight.”
The third problem lies with the batteries themselves. Mining the huge amounts of nickel, cobalt, and lithium used in their manufacture comes at an environmental cost. As Mr. Meilhan says: “If you switch from oil to cobalt and lithium, you have not addressed any problem. You have just switched your problem.”
Nickel is the 8th worst metal to mine and process in terms of global warming and pollution. Lithium also comes at an environmental cost. 1 ton of lithium carbonate produced is responsible for 1 ton of carbon dioxide. Then there is the issue of these batteries being discarded once they have lived out their lives. It is thought that 11 million tons of old lithium-ion batteries will be thrown away over the next 12 years, of which only 5 percent will be recycled.
The fourth problem is the fact that these cars are manufactured the same way petrol or diesel cars are manufactured. The factories are not running on clean energy but very much the same energy that the other cars are employing for their manufacturing.
The fifth and final problem is that the pollution caused by brake and tire dust is ignored when taking into account the emissions. These are responsible for a number of diseases and are caused by the electric vehicles the same way they are being produced by the other vehicles. “While governments don’t currently pay much attention to particulate matter, it is in fact highly polluting, with strong links to cardiopulmonary toxicity,” the Government’s top adviser, Professor Frank Kelly, wrote recently in The Guardian.
So do you agree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.