As more people are becoming aware of climate change and are trying to take up greener options, both the demand and supply of Electric Vehicles (EVs) have increased. According to a research firm, Counterpoint, the demand for EVs in India is expected to rise by 66% this year and by 2030, a third of the country’s private vehicles could be EVs. 

But are EVs really cleaner and better than their traditional petrol and diesel counterparts? Or can they further degrade the ongoing environmental condition? Let us analyse the scenario. 

Truth Bombs:

A study by ‘Emissions Analytics’, a firm that analyses emissions data, reveals the problem of particle pollution originating from brakes and tyres in both electric and fossil fuel-powered cars. The key finding of the study, which was published in a Wall Street Journal op-ed,  is that EVs, because of their heavier weight, may release 1,850 times more particulate matter from brakes and tyres compared to modern gas-powered vehicles with efficient exhaust filters.

This is because the large mass of EVs causes tyres to deteriorate faster, releasing harmful chemicals into the air as the tyres are made from synthetic rubber derived from crude oil. Adding on, the heavier weight of the EV’s batteries than the traditional petrol engines, puts more strain on the brakes and tyres, thus accelerating wear and tear.

Therefore, one important factor to bring to your notice is that it is not only the tailpipe emissions that need to be considered while evaluating the emissions from EVs but also particle pollution from brakes and tyres, which in the case of electric vehicles,  could be over 400 times higher than exhaust emissions from a modern petrol car.

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The Reality:

The electric car is an invention that has created a sudden excitement around the ‘white oil’ or lithium. It is the main material required to make the batteries of electric vehicles. Lithium is very popular with battery manufacturers because it is the least dense metal, storing a lot of energy for its weight.

To keep in line with the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty that aims to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and to which India is also a part of electrifying transport is seen as a solution. Plans for banning petrol and diesel vehicles are also underway in some countries, such as Norway.

Now the issue arises from the fact that most of this lithium is imported. Australia, Chile, China and Argentina are the main sources of lithium-ion. Thus, since it is found in just a handful of countries while its demand is rising with every passing day, it has caused massive pressure on the resources of its host countries. 

A mining boom has been unleashed by the urgency of getting a lithium supply. This race for “white oil” threatens to cause damage to the environment wherever it is found. 

EVs are driving down some emissions in one way, but are raising them in the other way. Everyone having an electric vehicle means an enormous amount of mining, refining and all the polluting activities that come with it. 

Producing electric vehicles leads to significantly more emissions than producing petrol cars … which is mostly from the battery production,” said Florian Knobloch, from Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance. Those greater production emission numbers are seen as “an initial investment, which pays off rather quickly due to the reduced lifetime emissions.

Moreover, to charge an electric vehicle sustainably, we need renewable energy sources such as solar or wind panels. A coal-fired power station emits approximately 650 grams of CO2 per kWh but if we use renewable energy such as solar panels or wind turbines, around 36g CO2 will be emitted per kWh.

So if a vehicle is recharged using renewable energy, its negative impact on the environment is far lower than if it’s charged using electricity from a coal-fired power station.  

However, this will be possible only when the electricity sources become renewable, and it might take several decades for that to happen in most countries. 

Although EVs are not emitting greenhouse gases once they are in action, but while they are being made and their components are being sourced, the amount of emissions is serious. Therefore, the full green potential of electric vehicles is still years away.

Image Credits: Google Images

Feature image designed by Saudamini Seth

Sources: The Guardian, CNBC, NDTV

Find the blogger: Unusha Ahmad

This post is tagged under: EV, petrol, diesel, cars, automobiles, climate change, pollution, exhaust, greenhouse gases, India, lithium

Disclaimer: We do not hold any right, or copyright over any of the images used, these have been taken from Google. In case of credits or removal, the owner may kindly mail us.

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