There is a steady shift to electric cars. Those who choose to go green and reduce pollution prefer using electric vehicles (EVs) over fossil-fuel vehicles. EVs have zero emissions and help users save the environment. They also save money that would have been spent to buy fuel. However, are EVs really good for the environment, and is green always clean? Do EVs cause more harm than the visible good we see? Let us take a closer look at where electric cars can cause more pollution.
Do Electric Cars Cause More Pollution?
Cars that use gas release harmful toxins. Simultaneously, EVs seem to provide a better solution because they don’t use gasoline and emit no toxic gases. They seem to cause no pollution and no potential problems for human and plant life. However, is there something we are missing when it comes to electricity EVs use? The following are areas in which electric cars can cause more pollution:
Power Generation and Transmission
Electric cars show no visible harm while they are on the road. However, when we trace them back to the source of power, some damage is done to the environment. The energy may be clean, but it is only as clean as the source of power. The primary sources of electricity are natural gas and burning fossil fuels, and coal. These are known to cause pollution.
A clean energy source is wind power, solar power, and hydro plants. These sources are yet to be widespread. Nuclear power is an alternative source, but this option also causes some environmental concerns. If electrical grids get cleaner, the total move from gasoline cars to electric cars will make more sense. This will be the only way to approach a zero-carbon transportation sector.
Life Cycle Assessments
There is a delicate balance between technology and trust. We recognize the need to move to EVs because they can help us reach zero emissions by 2030. However, the information being shared by manufacturers may not be entirely accurate. Technological advancements are assisting companies in creating better options, but there is the aspect of trust that also needs to be a priority. There is no uniformity since car makers use a range of different calculations in their Life Cycle Assessments.
Polestar’s methodology reveals that the Polestar 2 leaves the factory with a 26-ton carbon footprint. This is a higher amount compared to that of a Volvo XC40 with a petrol internal combustion engine. The reason for the larger carbon footprint is the energy-intensive battery production process. However, if the Polestar 2 is charged with green energy while in use, the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions are negligible. In the long run, the fossil-fuel car will have an overall emission greater than that of the EV.
Plug-in Hybrid EV (PHEV)
Some consumers want to cover longer distances and need more than electricity to travel. The plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) are the best option in such cases. However, PHEVs have been found to emit much more carbon dioxide than is communicated in the ratings. A Greenpeace and Transport & Environment report argues that PHEVs are a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” because they produce 2.5 times more CO2 in real life than they do in the lab. Petrol and diesel cars emit 164-167g CO2/km respectively in real-world conditions, whereas PHEVs emit an average of 117g CO2/km. To put this in perspective, the official test results indicate PHEVs emit 44g CO2/km.
How you drive a PHEV determines the actual amount of emissions. A PHEV behaves like a conventional hybrid when you do not plug it in. Driving a PHEV at high speeds causes the fossil-fuel engine to fire up. This negates the emissions benefits of battery power.
We also need to analyze the full “lifecycle” of emissions. Environmental costs such as making the car, transporting coal, and drilling oil are factored in when looking at fossil-fuel vehicles. Fragmentation also makes EVs look good, but we need to look at the environment’s full impact. This is because even the cleanest cars still cause pollution, in one way or another.
More energy is required at the production stage of EVs than what is needed to produce standard cars. It may be a challenge determining the red flags when it comes to embracing green energy. However, nothing is impossible and continuous research, and product development brings about positive change.
Looking at the Bigger Picture
We need to appreciate that with every change, there may be advantages and disadvantages associated with it. By looking at the bigger picture and the result, we can understand that the main goal is not to harm the environment and ourselves. EVs are the means to this goal.
However, there are many improvements to be done, and manufacturers need to be transparent about the number of emissions that hybrid EVs release. Advancements may be made to lower the impact of the areas where electric cars cause more pollution. It also remains the fact that EVs travel further on a single joule of energy and, at the same time, release fewer emissions.