Across the globe, electric cars appear to be the future of automotive technology. Ford will soon release an all-electric truck; hybrid vehicles are on the rise, and electric cars seem to be growing in popularity. However, the one question no one seems to ask is whether electric vehicles are really helpful to the environment.
When comparing electric vehicles to electric cars, the answer seems simple. Conventional or traditional cars have always utilized an internal combustion engine. The run primarily on fossil fuels – gas or diesel. Electric vehicles, on the other hand, use at least one electric motor which is powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Keep in mind that these batteries are of the same type which power smart phones and laptop computers.
Like smart phones and laptops, individuals will need to plug electric cars into an external power source, much like one would to charge a phone or computer. The pros of a lithium-ion battery include the fact that these machines are more efficient, as far as the environment is concerned. Most research points to the idea that lithium-ion batteries are likely to last for eight to ten years.
Being environmentally friendly and more efficient is a major selling point for electric vehicles. However, a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative stated that the battery and fuel production for an electric vehicle actually produces higher greenhouse emissions than manufacturing a conventional automobile. The study does show that the electronic vehicle’s ability to provide superior energy efficiency over time trumps the initial emissions that electronic vehicles produce. Over time, the emissions per mile for an electric vehicle is measurably lower than cars with internal combustion engines.
According to Sergey Paltsev, one of the authors of the study at MIT, “If we are going to take a look at the current situation, in some countries, electric vehicles are better even with the current grid.”
At the same time, Paltsev admitted that the full benefits of electric vehicles will ONLY be recognized after sources for electricity become renewable, as in more dependent on wind or solar energy. He also added that it may be several decades before this change takes place.
One of the major issues with electric vehicles is that just as gas-powered vehicles must often take a detour for fuel, the same is true for electric vehicles. Countries that are pushing for a move toward more electric vehicles on the road must move toward developing a network of charging stations in order for the batteries to access power while on longer trips. So far, even in the United States, where the demand for electronic vehicles is growing, such a network is not even in the latest infrastructure bill recently passed by Congress. This is a major hindrance in moving toward electric vehicles.
Next, the driving range for an electric car is much like the driving range for a gas-powered vehicle. As the car battery ages, the driving range may decrease. Extreme weather can also affect the lithium-ion batteries just as extreme weather can affect a traditional battery. Just as a gas-powered vehicle’s efficiency changes during extreme weather or during certain driving conditions, so will the efficiency of an electric car. “Simply put, they use more energy to compensate, no matter what type of vehicle one is driving.” Arshiya Jahanpour says.
Is the world ready for totally electric cars? Consumers may be, but the infrastructure simply isn’t in place at this time. Most of the world still relies on fossil fuels for electricity. Most of the world’s homes run on some form of gas or fossil fuel powered electricity. In fact, even for the newest electric vehicles, such as the Ford Lightning, charging at home is an option; however, the energy utilized to charge the electric vehicle still relies on fossil fuels for production. The MIT professor was correct when he mentioned that the electric grid will need to undergo a major transformation before we truly see the benefits of electric vehicles. Until then, we will still see unnecessary greenhouse emissions due to a continued dependence on fossil fuels.