One of the main causes of global warming is the emission of gasses such as CO2. The problem with carbon dioxide is that it fuels the greenhouse effect; a phenomenon that causes heat to remain on the earth’s surface, thus raising its temperature levels. Our vehicles are one of the major contributors to the emission of gasses. The Department of Energy estimated that vehicles generated nearly 30% of all emissions in the United States. Most vehicles are contributors, in fact over 99% of all vehicles sold rely on a combustion engine. So, what is the solution to lower the emission of these gasses produced by cars? The answer is electricity. By replacing the number of cars that rely on fuel by electric cars, we can considerably lower the emission of gasses, thus helping the Earth in the long run.
An electric car is a conventional car that replaces the traditional combustion engine with a battery. Electric cars have many advantages over those that run on fuel and most of them make electric cars eco-friendlier. If powered with renewable energy, the greatest advantage of an electric cars is air quality, as they don’t emit dangerous gasses because they don’t have an exhaust pipe. This improves the quality of air in populated areas. It also helps to reduce the greenhouse effect. Another advantage is their efficiency. Gasoline based vehicles convert around 19% of the energy into power for the car, whereas electric vehicles convert around 60% of the electricity into energy to keep the car moving. But a massive transition by consumers to electric cars is not as easy as it should be. Some electric vehicles are more expensive than conventional ones. In some areas it’s nearly impossible to recharge the batteries, and many folks don’t see a benefit in owning a car. Moreover, companies are not encouraged to produce more electric cars and invest in Research and Development to improve their development. A change would occur if governments incentivized car manufacturers to focus on electric vehicles and encouraged the citizens to research the possibility of owning an electric car.
Are Electric Cars as “Green” as People Think?
By Alexey Kononenko
Reply to “How Electric Cars are a Step into the Right Direction by City Tech Blogger Pedro Torres”
I agree that the transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to GHG emissions, but so is electricity production. Approximately 68% of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas. Electrical vehicles are charged from national’s electrical grid.
Will our streets be free of pollution and we will have better air quality? Unfortunately not in the near future, it will probably take us a long time to get there. We still have diesel trucks and buses on the streets. Second, electric cars still release pollution particles into the air which is from wearing tires, brakes and road services. More partial pollution comes from wear and not from exhaust pipes. However, the real environmental impact occurs before a new electrical vehicle has left the factory floor. “A report by the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics revealed that it takes twice the amount of energy to build an electric car as a conventional vehicle.” – (www.rac.co.uk).
When it comes to electric cars, their environmental impact is heavily dependent on the source of the electricity that charges the car. Electrical cars are as “green” as the electricity they use. “Using coal powered electricity electric cars do nothing to cut emissions, using natural gas electricity they are like a top hybrid and using low carbon power they result in less than half the total emissions of the best combustion vehicle, manufacturing included.” – (www.shrinkthatfootprint.com). Electrical vehicles, like regular vehicles, have three life stages: manufacturing, operation, and end-of-life. Each stage is linked with carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions. Electrical vehicles have higher manufacturing emissions that conventional cars.
The main problem is the battery. Rare metals, that are used in lithium batteries, exist in tiny quantities and difficult-to-reach places. Mining these rare metals cause more environmental damage than carbon emissions alone. Lithium and cobalt are vital metals in battery production. Supplies are limited and they can slow the growth of the electric car sector. Moreover, the lithium batteries can be difficult to recycle. More than 90% of lead or nickel based batteries used in conventional cars are recycled, versus less than 5% of lithium-ion batteries. Well maintained modern electric cars should be able to achieve 150,000 miles before the battery begins to lose capacity. At some point owners will be faced to replace the battery – a likely cost far more than the remaining value of the vehicle.
Electrical cars are very expensive. Electrical vehicle buyers are given a tax credit up to $7,500 that reduces the initial purchased cost of their vehicle. Some states are given additional $5,000 in rebates for vehicle charges, and free use of public charging stations, even though these stations are subsidized by taxpayers. Some states even are given electrical vehicle preferential access to carpool lanes. Right now only wealthy people can afford buying an electrical vehicle. Of course, electrical cars are very impressive, fast and quiet. But United States pushes to adapt electrical vehicles and subsidizes many millions of dollars for its production. In the last 3 years, congress spent $860 millions for Tesla alone to boost their manufacturing output.
What are the biggest Pros and Cons of electrical vehicle now?
• Zero emission once they are charged
• Electricity is cheaper than gasoline
• Maintenance is less frequent and less expensive (no oil change, brakes on electrical vehicles don’t wear as quickly as those on the conventional car)
• Electrical vehicles are very quiet
• The original owner of electrical vehicle gets tax credit up to $7,500
• Electrical vehicle can be driven on the HOV lane any time of the day
Cons of having electrical vehicles:
• Electrical vehicles have pretty short ranges. On the full charge, most electrical car models are limited to range 60 – 100 miles. However, electrical vehicle range is constantly improving.
• Recharging the batteries can take 4 hours, some take 15 -20 hours, compare to the few minutes filling up a conventional car at the gas station.
• Electrical vehicles are expensive. Consumers expect to pay between $10,000 -$50,000 more for electrical vehicle.
• Not enough charging stations
• Not big variety of electrical vehicle.
As of now, the cons of electrical vehicles are very important and they are preventing regular customers to buy them. Electrical vehicles are far from being perfect. When technology improves we will see newer and less damaging materials will be developed and renewable energy will become a main force. Only then will electrical vehicles offer real environmental benefits to everyone. Electrical vehicles are the right step to lower GHG emissions. But it is a baby step now and it will take a long time to achieve our goal – to stop global warming by reducing GHG emissions.
great comment, Alexey. I learned a lot and you did wonderful research that added greatly to the original post