Are Electric Cars Better for the Planet? The debate on whether electric cars or gas-powered vehicles are better for Earth has been raging since the dream of EVs was actualized. It may look seemingly apparent that electric cars are better for the planet since they don’t emit greenhouse gases as they are driven.
Nonetheless, electric vehicles aren’t environmentally flawless and come with their own set of polluting issues. The primary environmental concern with EVs is their batteries, which contain components, notably lithium, requiring a substantial amount of energy to source and extract.
A 2014 research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the comprehensive life cycle of an EV’s emissions, starting from mining the essential metals needed to manufacture the batteries to the electricity needed to power the vehicles. The findings were then compared with the average emissions of a gas-powered vehicle. The researchers established that when electric vehicles are charged with coal-powered electricity, they are much more detrimental to the environment compared to conventional gasoline cars.
However, considering that national grids are now clean enough for EVs, these vehicles beat their gasoline-powered counterparts regarding greenhouse-gas emissions and environmental pollution in the course of their lifetimes.
There are few countries where electricity is produced mainly or entirely through coal. China is among these countries, with a majority of the country’s electricity supply coming from coal. In 2019, for instance, it was estimated that 58% of the country’s total electricity supply came from coal, with some parts of the countries relying entirely on coal for electricity supply. However, this could soon change as the country has started embracing renewable energy. Nature magazine reported that China has twice the wind energy capacity as the U.S. and has enacted more solar panels per year than any other country.
Electric Cars are More Environmentally Friendly
A model on the hypothetical future scenario in which all cars were electric was published this month in the Environmental Science and Technology journal. The model examines the future implication of EVs concerning energy, infrastructure, and emissions if all vehicles are electrified. The finding paints a positive picture of electric vehicles in the future. For instance, the model looked at a scenario where all privately owned vehicles in the U.S. were electric.
It established that this particular scenario would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the country by 46% every year (0.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually) compared with conventionally powered cars. The model also established that annual carbon dioxide emission could be reduced even further (to 49%) if all EVs were subjected to a technique known as “smart charging,” also referred to as “controlled charging.” This strategy involves recharging vehicles at specific times, i.e., at night, to minimize the financial cost of generating electricity.
While it’s much easier to see the benefits of EVs over the conventional gas-or diesel-powered vehicle using an environmental perspective, the cost of buying and maintaining an electric vehicle is often overlooked. Would most people be able to afford EVs? What about the cost of maintenance?
Electric Vehicles are Way Cheaper to Maintain
Consumer Reports released a 2020 report that was contrary to the common perception of electrical vehicles. The report established that the estimated maintenance costs and per-mile repair of an electric vehicle over its lifetime is a little less than that of a conventional gas or diesel-powered vehicle. This was primarily attributed to the mechanical makeup of an EV constituting electrical motors with a single moving part compared to traditional engines, which have dozens of moving parts. As such, fewer components need to be replaced in an EV translating to substantial savings on maintenance costs.
Electric Cars Will be Affordable in the Long-run
In regards to affordability, electric vehicles are set to be quite affordable by approximately 2029, even costing the same as a conventional gasoline-powered car. However, this will be mostly dependent on how quickly manufacturers make these vehicles. A recent U.S.-wide research carried out by Bauer established that the high rate of depreciation of new electric vehicles would be instrumental in enabling lower-income households to afford used electric vehicles. Besides, other factors driving price reductions such as increased supplier competition and rapid technological innovations will make electric vehicles affordable to the masses for almost all income levels by approximately 2029. In addition, Bauer established that low-income households in the U.S. would save up to $1,000 per year from fuel savings if they were to switch to an EV.
Electric vehicles are gaining widespread acceptance across the globe. However, they are yet to hit the mainstream market, meaning that most car enthusiasts are yet to take a test drive and explore their features. Nonetheless, an online virtual showroom will give you first-hand experience with EVs allowing you to explore the interiors and exteriors using virtual reality and augmented reality. Get on board and start exploring the next-generation vehicles today.