Why are electric cars bad for the environment? - Kalkine Media

June 27, 2021 12:14 AM AEST | By Tripti Joshi
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  • Electric cars are gaining attention as they are believed to be one of the most sustainable modes of transportation.
  • While electric cars are better for the atmosphere than petrol or diesel cars, they have their fair share of problems.
  • Although they do not produce exhaust fumes, electric cars use batteries that can emit toxic fumes in the environment.
  • Besides, recycling these batteries is an expensive and continuing process, and most batteries have not been reused.

Over the last few years, there has been an upsurge in electric vehicles (EV) purchases. Electric vehicles are highly attractive, and there are multiple factors to consider before switching to electric cars. Three popular reasons include:

  • Electric cars have higher efficiency as compared to gas-powered cars.
  • Can reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.
  • They require less maintenance compared to most cars.

ALSO READ: How will Electric Vehicles help Australia tackle the climate crisis?

One of the main reasons people opt for electric cars is that they are often considered the most sustainable forms of transportation with no carbon emission. In addition, unlike gas-powered or hybrid vehicles, electric cars operate entirely on electric power.

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While it is essential to acknowledge that electric cars are better for the environment than petrol or diesel cars, they still have their issues. Although electric cars do not emit exhaust fumes, they use batteries that can produce toxic fumes.

Besides, the electricity used to fuel electric vehicles is primarily generated from non-renewable sources of energy. This could harm both human health and the environment.

How does electric car production affect the environment?

A considerable amount of energy is used during the production of electric cars. However, even taking battery production into account, electric cars are still an environmentally-friendly option. This is because of the reduction in emissions generated over an electric car’s lifetime.

However, the emissions generated during the manufacturing process are likely to be greater than a conventional car. This is because of the production of lithium-ion batteries that are an essential part of the electric car. Over a third of the lifetime CO2 emissions from an electric car comes from the energy used to manufacture the car itself.

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Four important points can be considered in evaluating the impact of electric cars on the environment-

  • Tailpipe emissions.
  • Well-to-wheel emissions.
  • The energy source used for charging the battery.
  • The efficiency of the electric car.

Are electric cars zero-emission vehicles?

No, electric cars are not considered zero-emissions vehicles. Though these cars do not produce carbon emission while driving, they do cause emissions during other stages. Electric vehicles can indirectly cause emissions and negatively impact the environment in three stages: manufacturing electric cars, energy and battery recycling.

  • Manufacturing

Manufacturing is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions and pollution for any industry, and the electric vehicle industry is no different. During manufacturing, mining activities for extracting the rare earth metals for use in batteries are energy-consuming and can pollute the environment.

During high-performing metals manufacturing, the industrial units use enormous amounts of energy and often generate high greenhouse gas emissions. Some studies have highlighted that the production of electric vehicles generates more carbon emissions than manufacturing traditional petrol or diesel car. However, it is not easy to precisely measure and compare the emission between these two.

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  • Energy production

Electric vehicles are as green as the energy that is being used to power them. As most electricity comes from non-renewable sources, electric cars will indirectly generate carbon emissions before even driving. Moreover, suppose the electric car is being driven with energy generated from fossil fuels burning. In that case, it is still emitting CO2 in the environment, not directly from the tailpipe but the distant power plant.

  • Battery recycling

Generally, electric cars have enormous chemical batteries, and investigation is still going on for an environmentally friendly and low-energy way to recycle them. At present, recycling lithium-ion car batteries is a prolonged and inefficient process. In some instances, an electric car’s battery is separated and destroyed into its components, and some materials such as metal could be reused.

The recycling of batteries is still an expensive and continuous process. Besides, most of the batteries have not been recycled yet.

Bottomline: While electric vehicles have an indirect negative impact on the environment, they are still an excellent option to reduce carbon footprint compared to standard petrol or diesel vehicles.


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