Climate change is real and is taking place at a much faster pace. This must be a cause of concern for the entire humankind as even a slight increase in average global temperatures is enough to create chaos in the natural ecosystem of our planet.
The world is inflicted with floods, droughts and hurricanes more frequently than it was in the past. Ice caps are melting, global temperatures rising, sea levels are increasing. All this is nothing but a recipe of disaster, unknowingly being prepared by the present generation.
Climate change is happening at an alarming rate with increased greenhouse gas emissions, increased carbon emissions from vehicles and unnecessary use of aerosols which are hazardous for the health of our planet. The impact of all these reckless activities is ozone depletion and global warming which has many other repercussions as well.
Hence, it is vital to act before we reach a point of no return. Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of the UN has rightly said,“The world is reaching the tipping point beyond which climate change may become irreversible. If this happens, we risk denying present and future generations the right to a healthy and sustainable planet – the whole of humanity stands to lose.”
At this crucial hour, it is of utmost importance that we do our part in protecting our safe haven from destruction. Reducing carbon emissions from vehicles is one way to control climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that about 14% of carbon emissions in the atmosphere are released by transportation vehicles. Also, this does not include the pollution caused due to manufacturing and assembling vehicles.
It has also been found that cars are responsible for 72% of the Co2 emissions, followed by aircraft which cause 10% of pollution. Thus, the market for electric cars is expanding steadily and they seem to be a viable option compared to traditional cars in terms of their environmental impact. They are friendly to the environment and can help mitigate the current environmental crisis.
Traditional cars and electric cars- How are they different?
The major difference between traditional thermal cars and electric cars is that the latter uses clean technology which doesn’t harm the environment in the long run. While traditional cars use petrol and diesel causing enormous carbon emissions, electric cars don’t cause combustion as they run on lithium-ion batteries. They don’t use fuel and so are pollution-free. They are also more efficient than traditional cars. They can be changed easily as well. Electric cars are the future as they are cleaner and greener vehicles.
The process of manufacture and assemblage is the same for both the traditional and electric cars, however, it is interesting to note that at the end of the manufacturing process, electric cars generate more carbon emissions than traditional cars, reported by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
This is because electric cars run on batteries which store large amounts of energy in them. These batteries are made of elements mined from the earth such as lithium, nickel or cobalt. The process through which these elements are obtained, itself causes lots of pollution and land degradation. However, once these cars are out on the roads, they cause zero pollution.
Also, since they run on batteries, these chargeable sources of energy will die one day and new batteries would be needed. According to the Deutsche Bank report, there is enough lithium for 185 years and similar figures for nickel, cobalt and graphite which are the rare earth elements used for making these batteries. However, the only problem is the negative environmental impact of making these batteries.
Research is ongoing regarding the development of reusable and rechargeable batteries with a longer shelf life. Scientists are also exploring the possibility of using second-hand batteries for storing electricity. For now, we can look for renewable energy sources instead of recklessly using non-renewable fossil fuels. And this is why switching to electric vehicles is important, as they save the earth’s precious resources which are formed over millions of years.
Electric cars are also beneficial as they make the city air clean, free from pollutants and smoke. They don’t have a tailpipe and produce no carbon emissions. They make the environment more pleasant and improve the health and standard of living of people using them. It has been estimated that in a year if only one electric car is run on the road, that can save us around 1.5 million grams of carbon emissions.
The Mayor of London commented that vehicles cause more than half of global air pollution. Hence, the UK has decided to take proactive steps and the local government is encouraging people to buy electric cars instead of traditional ones. The UK Government is determined to stop the sale of cars that run on fossil fuels by 2040. The Government also plans to drastically decrease carbon emission in the country by 2050 and electric cars would play a major role in this endeavour.
Electric cars also reduce noise pollution. They are quieter and run smoothly creating a calmer atmosphere, making driving a pleasurable experience. Research conducted by the European Energy Agency has discovered that carbon emissions of an electric car are 17-30% less than traditional cars. The pollution caused in the process of generating electricity is widely reduced when low carbon electricity is utilised.
People who are conscious of the environment are already moving towards electric vehicles. There is one obstacle that restricts their wide usage and that is they are quite expensive. However, as new technologies are developing, we can expect to see only electric vehicles on the roads in the near future.
They are a sustainable mode of transportation and operate on electrical power. Depending on the way the electricity is produced, electric cars can be run with minimal carbon emissions if the electricity used to charge the car is produced from renewable sources. Here are a few factors which can be taken into consideration when we are analyzing the impact of electric cars on the environment.
Direct or Tailpipe Emissions
Electric vehicles do not emit tailpipe or direct emissions. When we take into account this factor alone, they are quite eco-friendly but we also need to look into the ‘well-to-wheel emissions. This incorporates the greenhouse gases and pollutants released in the atmosphere to power the electric vehicle.
If you want to significantly lower the carbon emissions then make sure your electric car is powered by clean electricity produced by solar or wind energy.
If we talk about well-to-wheel emissions, all-electric vehicles emit around 4,450 pounds of carbon dioxide every year whereas conventional cars emit twice as much annually.
The ‘well-to-wheel emissions also depend on the country you reside in. For example, in California, electricity is produced from natural gas.
Natural gas is also used to produce electricity in the US. It is still a clean fuel as it produces 60% fewer carbon emissions compared to coal. So, if your electric vehicle is run from electricity produced from natural gas rather than coal, it will have a more sustainable impact on the environment. Hence, switching to renewable sources is most important.
How to make electric cars more environment friendly
An electric car can be charged using a solar panel system which can be installed on the roof. Solar panels are a one-time investment and you can power your vehicle with these panels and save on gasoline. However, with time, you may require additional panels depending on the efficiency of your car, how often it is used and the amount of sunlight the area you live in receives.
Even if you can’t afford solar panels, you can shift to the usage of community solar share, which is becoming quite common in some countries. Here, a community generates solar energy and shares it. This energy can be used for their individual needs.
Electric cars are the vehicles of the future. They are eco-friendly and can help us to reduce the global carbon footprint. As technology becomes mainstream, electric cars would become common but only till we exhaust the rare earth elements which are used to make their batteries.
Either humankind will have to find a new energy source or else go back to primitive times. It is hard to imagine, but scientists have predicted that in the distant future public transport will be back in use. The UN has stated that about 68% of people will live in urban areas around 2050 and hence overpopulation is also a determining factor about future mobility. Business models to make newer, cleaner and greener options are being developed. Till then, let us do our bit in conserving our planet.