The environmental safety of automotive electrification is not as obvious as it might seem at first glance. This «unexpected» conclusion was reached by the consulting and research company Radiant Energy Group (REG). It turns out that in order to ensure the now fashionable carbon neutrality, in which all manufacturers are competing, it is necessary not only to produce vehicles without emissions into the atmosphere, but also to ensure a harmless cycle of their maintenance.
The strong nonlinearity of the harmlessness of electric vehicles to nature is determined by the infrastructure of charging stations and the energy efficiency of the country as a whole. For example, a sample of a number of countries showed that if electricity is generated from non-renewable and “dirty” energy sources, then the environmental friendliness of electric vehicles is still not supported by the resources spent on charging them. Simply put, burning coal in kilotons to charge electric cars harms nature more than if the cars were driven by gasoline or diesel with modern eco-standards.
The technological development of the country’s energy system directly affects the dangers of operating electric vehicles. For example, according to the research, in Poland there is more harm from this type of transport “in a circle” than from a classic car park on an internal combustion engine. The country’s power plants are almost entirely dependent on coal, which now requires significantly more to be burned to charge the EV. By the way, Germany, often cited as an example as a European economic leader, did not shine in this indicator either: the country’s energy system is also strongly tied to fossils. That, despite the actively promoted greening policy, de facto today allows it to provide only 55% of clean energy in its power grids.
Another dimension of this topic lies in the very cycle of production and disposal of batteries for electric vehicles. To date, there is no technology for mass «clean» processing of batteries. Every manufacturer announces new technologies of energy intensity and service life of energy cells almost every month, but nothing is heard about breakthroughs in technologies for their utilization. In addition, in the production of batteries, no one wants to share detailed statistics on the resources (both natural and energy) spent on their manufacture.
There is no doubt that as the first wave of enthusiasm and slogans for general electrification dies down, research like the Radiant Energy Group will continue to grow every year. And then admirers of Greta Thunberg can finally begin to objectively evaluate not only the beautiful facade of the progressive trend, but also reflect on its side effects. It is clear that the future belongs to alternative energy sources. But you need to go to a bright clean green future meaningfully and consistently.
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