- June 28, 2020
ElectricVehicles and Their Impact on the Environment
Climatechange is a controversial topic in many societal circles because itpits human progress against the well-being of the planet. Scientistshave pointed out that greenhouse gas emissions are responsible forthe change in the climate. Thus, nowadays, it is not surprising tosee people purchasing vehicles such as Toyota Prius and Teslas, sothat they may reduce their carbon footprint. Electric vehicles areseen as ways to curb emissions and prevent environmental degradation.However, electric vehicles are not as green as many people wouldexpect because electric vehicles are only as green as their supplychain, production lines and their sources of power
Electriccars are often viewed as environmentally friendly alternatives toconventional cars because they help to reduce vehicle-relatedgasoline dependence. Researchers note that electric vehicles have asmaller carbon footprint when compared to their gasoline counterpartsbecause the electric ones have no exhaust gasses (Tessum, Hill, andMarshall 1890). However, a holistic view of how an electric poweredvehicle is manufactured shows that electric vehicles have a carbonsmudge on their eco-friendly ratings. In the US, 33 percent of theelectricity generated comes from coal. A similar amount of power isobtained from burning natural gas. In comparison, only 26 percent ofelectricity comes from nuclear power and hydroelectric power plants("What Is U.S. Electricity Generation By Energy Source?").Therefore, an increase in the demand for electricity (by electriccars) is likely to result in an increase in power generation. Sincethe majority of electricity in the US comes from burningnon-renewable sources of energy, one can expect that an increase inthe number of electric vehicles, will result in more coal and naturalgas being burnt (Archsmith, Kendall, and Rapson 4-7). That is if thecurrent electricity mix is maintained.
Electriccars could be more beneficial in addressing pollution if theirsources of energy were to be made cleaner. For instance, if they usednuclear power and not coal. A study by Tessum, Hill, and Marshallpredicts that electric vehicles can reduce deaths attributed to airpollution by 70 percent if they were powered by renewable sources ofenergy. The research adds that when electric vehicles make use ofenvironmentally damaging sources of electricity like coal they causean 80-percent rise in the number of deaths related to air pollution,which are attributed to electric cars (Tessum, Hill, and Marshall1892). Clean electricity has to be promptly developed if people areto realize the full benefits of electric vehicles.
Alook at the electric vehicle supply chain shows the degree ofpollution that accompanies the initial production phase of thesevehicles. These cars require high performing components so that theautomobile can function with the utmost efficiency. The efficiency ofthe power system of such vehicles comes from the use of rare metals(Krishna-Hensel 118). The extraction process of such rare earthmetals is very inefficient because it yields very low amounts of rareearth metals, yet it requires the removal of large chunks of soilthe extracted mounds of earth are left with chemical contaminants(Yang et al. 133-134).
Oncethe rare earth metals have been removed from the overall soilmixture, they are processed using coal-powered furnaces which emit alot of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere (Yang et al. 133-134). Astudy by the Union of Concerned Scientists highlights that the amountof emissions released during the production of electric vehiclesusually exceeds that of gasoline vehicles by 15 percent. Moreover,the researchers state that manufacturing electric cars that travelmore than 250 miles, results in the release of 68 percent higheremissions than that of a conventional car. Therefore, the manufactureof an electric car is environmentally unfriendly ("Cleaner CarsFrom Cradle To Grave (2015)").
However,the research by the Union of Concerned Scientists notes that inAmerica, electric vehicles are cleaner than their gasolineequivalent. Electric cars make up for their manufacturing pollutionwithin the first six to eighteen months, depending on the vehiclesrange ("Cleaner Cars From Cradle To Grave (2015)"). Whenpeople analyze electric vehicles, they mainly focus on the tailpipeemissions, and they forget to check the car’s source of power. Itis an act of shifting the point of pollution and hoping that by doingso, the results will be favorable. A holistic approach to the issueof greenhouse gasses and electric vehicles is better since it allowsfor the two elements to be addressed simultaneously. Fixing oneproblem and not the other will undermine the progress made.
Inconclusion, the eco-friendliness of an electric vehicle goes hand inhand with the eco-friendliness of its production supply chain and itsenergy sources. If the manufacturers of electric vehicles are todistance their products from environmental pollution, then they willneed to ensure that each time their car is plugged in to recharge, itdoes not indirectly degrade the environment. Also, they need toliaise with their suppliers to find ways through which they canextract the necessary components in a way that will have minimaleffects on the environment. Electric vehicles are part of themotoring future. Keeping them as eco-friendly as possible will ensurethat they serve their primary purpose of curbing emissions.
Archsmith,James, Alissa Kendall, and David Rapson. "From Cradle ToJunkyard: Assessing The Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Benefits OfElectric Vehicles". Researchin Transportation Economics52 (2015): 4-7. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.
"CleanerCars From Cradle To Grave (2015)". ucsusa.org.N.p., 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.
Krishna-Hensel,Sai F. NewSecurity Frontiers: Critical Energy and the Resource Challenge.Farnham: Ashgate, 2012. Internet resource.
Tessum,Christopher W., Jason D. Hill, and Julian D. Marshall. "LifeCycle Air Quality Impacts Of Conventional And Alternative Light-DutyTransportation In The United States". Proceedingsof the National Academy of Sciences 111.52(2014): 18490-18495. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.
"WhatIs U.S. Electricity Generation By Energy Source?". Eia.gov.N.p., 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.
Yang,X. Jin et al. "China`s Ion-Adsorption Rare Earth Resources,Mining Consequences And Preservation". EnvironmentalDevelopment8 (2013): 131-136. Print.