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Electric Cars Are on the Rise. But Are They Really Environmentally Friendly?

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Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Source: Ernest Ojeh [8]

The transport sector is one of the major contributors to climate change, accounting for over 24% of global CO2 emissions in 2016 [1]. Unfortunately, this figure is expected to rise, which poses a major challenge to efforts to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

To keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, electrification remains an important part of the solution since it harnesses the potential to decarbonize the power grid [2]. Electric vehicles (EVs) have made huge technological strides, and they are more popular than ever before, seeing that more countries have committed to gradually make the transition from the use of conventional gasoline-based vehicles to the use of electric vehicles. For instance, Tesla has become a hot topic of conversation today regarding its sustainable energy efforts through electric cars as one of the solutions in addressing climate change.


Advantages of Electric Cars

Electric cars have become more appealing today in a world where reducing emissions and pollution are gaining much attention for many people.

Electric cars produce less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional gasoline-based vehicles, with studies showing electric cars are 30% much cleaner over their life cycle compared to the most efficient cars on the market [3]. Not only would it improve air quality, but it would also reduce noise pollution that comes with conventional gasoline-based vehicles.

On top of that, electric vehicles have lower charging costs, less frequent maintenance, and are also more convenient since users can charge their electric cars at home [4]. By installing rooftop solar panels, users can reduce their charging costs while simultaneously reducing fossil fuel consumption.

Despite the ample benefits, many people are still hesitant to make the change. There are a few important factors to consider before buying electric vehicles, such as the fact that most electric vehicles have relatively short ranges, they are a large initial investment, and charging station availability is inconsistent [5].


And Are Electric Cars Really Better for the Environment?

Electric vehicles are much preferable to conventional gasoline-powered vehicles since they generate less emissions. However, their battery contains rare earth elements (RRE) such as lithium, nickel and cobalt, and their extractions are resource-intensive. For example, in Salar de Atacama, one of the driest deserts in the world, lithium mining uses nearly 65% of the water to pump out brines from drilled wells [6].

Nonetheless, electric vehicles waste hundreds of times less raw material than fossil fuel vehicles, and electric cars have a good prospect as the future transportation in addressing climate change [7]. It also has growth significantly. Eventhough it is not perfect yet, with the advancement of the technology, electric vehicles are likely to become more efficient and sustainable.


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