Are electric vehicles the future of the transportation industry?
The epidemic rattled the automobile industry and every other business, and electric vehicles started gaining traction rapidly. For the first time in 2019, cumulative yearly sales of battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles surpassed the two million vehicle mark.
In 2020, the automobile industry’s electric car segment experienced tremendous expansion, with nearly every major manufacturer and brand group announcing, revealing, or premiering new and forthcoming electric vehicles.
Electric cars, buses, and trucks are becoming more popular now. Switching to electric automobiles and fueling them with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind will reduce emissions and help us escape the worst effects of climate change.
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Electric vehicles emit significantly less pollution than gasoline-powered vehicles, and this advantage is only growing over time. Coal-fired power output is steadily dropping, while renewable energy sources are growing in importance. We can reduce global warming emissions by switching from gasoline to electricity to power our automobiles and trucks.
Advantages of electric vehicles
- Compared to regular gasoline vehicles, electric vehicles are less expensive to operate and repair. While the price of gasoline fluctuates, the cost of power is low and consistent, and driving electric in most cities may save a family hundreds of dollars each year.
- Electric vehicles emit no tailpipe pollution related to asthma, heart attacks, poor health, and premature death. While idling in your neighborhood or delayed in traffic, electric automobiles, trucks, and buses do not emit harmful exhaust pollution like their conventional vehicle counterparts.
- Automakers and governments are touting electric vehicles throughout the world as a method to reduce oil consumption, mitigate climate change risks, and construct a cleaner, more sustainable future. For example, Volkswagen, GM, and Toyota have all indicated unequivocally that electric vehicles are the way of the future.
- Compared to typical combustion engine vehicles, electric automobiles are less expensive to fuel and maintain. And as new models are released, the cost of purchasing an electric vehicle is decreasing. Electric cars require less upkeep than gasoline-powered vehicles. New models on the market also provide you with more car size and appearance options for your electric vehicle.
Drawbacks of electric vehicles
- Though EVs are free of tailpipe pollution and can run on green energy, their production accounts for a significant share of their total lifecycle environmental impacts. This is mainly due to the material resources used in EV batteries, which require more effort to extract. EVs’ material extraction and manufacturing is the essential stage in energy use and other impacts linked to the primary production of critical metals, such as cobalt and nickel. Moreover, some of these material resources on which the EV system relies end up bearing supply risks due to geopolitical issues than their limited availability. The geological availability of these metals will not be an issue for meeting the demand. However, extraction of these resources will increase environmental impacts, such as GHG emissions, water and soil pollutions, and stress on water resources. The continuous supply of some of these resources is subject to geopolitical challenges. Social and ethical issues, such as child labor and poor working conditions, are also of concern for extracting some metals.
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- With use over time, EV batteries lose their energy storage capacity, output power, and the ability to rapidly charge and discharge, which are essential functions needed for an EV’s purpose. These batteries come to their end of life as to their use in an EV.
For now, nothing is done to recycle those used EV battery packs, but they are not entirely exhausted, and the remaining potential can be utilized elsewhere.
End Life EV batteries carry up to 80% of their initial capacity, which can be used for less demanding purposes in other applications. They can last for several more years. They can be converted into stationary power supply units for homes, commercial buildings, streetlights, and sports arenas and for enterprise purposes, such as being used in service vehicles in mining and construction work, electric forklifts, etc.
- EVs operate in a more ‘electronic’ setting than ICEVs (Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles) do, as EVs have electric powertrain components, such as inverters, motors, and controllers. Modern EVs are increasingly using several consumer electronics for information, communication, and entertainment purposes. This means that more electrical and electronic items will become waste as EVs reach the end of their lives, representing an imposing challenge for the recycling path.
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- Charging time and charging stations would be the most critical challenge for EV development. Even if battery capacities are increasing, range and setting time are still very constraining for all users. The cost and time to develop an adequate charging infrastructure grid are so heavy that it will require massive funding and two decennia to cover the most driven areas of the world completely. And yet, What will happen if you move your EV to the remote ones? the mobile station could solve the problem, but service would not be immediate or need a lot of planning from EV users…
- Electricity generation is also a concern. Even if it is getting better, most of the electricity plants are big pollution makers. A significant proportion of the power plant still runs on coal. It generates nearly the equivalent pollution that EV cars using its electricity would produce if they were running on petrol fuels. We can see more and more sustainable power plants coming up, taking energy from the sun, the wind, or the waves. Still, it is only representing a few percentages of the total power generation system.
- If we were to replace all actual ICEV (Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles) on the planet (1.4 billion cars, 200 million bikes, trucks, buses, etc.), the impact of mining and producing all the battery and new EV vehicles would be disastrous.
Are electric vehicles the future of the global transportation industry?
The adoption of EVs is expanding rapidly, which offers several economic and environmental opportunities and new challenges. Many countries are devising policies to support the uptake of passenger electric cars. Besides passenger EVs, the electrification of public transport and local fleets (buses and taxis) can also be an effective strategy for many developing cities.
But the manufacturing, running, and disposition of those EVs might not be as sustainable as everyone would first think.
Moreover, as is generally the case for everything on earth, you break the balance of the resources and economy if you start to globalize one solution only.
Generalizing on type of energy storage for vehicles has already been done with petrol several decennia ago. It has generated the problems we see today (global pollution, dependency on specific countries for petrol).
Shifting to EVs might look good, with novelty and low numbers. But when it is extended to the overall nearly 2 billion vehicles on the planet, it will create substantial global problems again.
There are a lot of other sustainable technologies to replace the ICEV, e-fuel, bio-fuel, fuel-cells, hydrogen, etc.
And even if most of those solutions lag a little behind the EVs in terms of cost, readiness, and accessibility, they will be much more relevant in specific usage scenarios and certain geographical and economic constraints.
Thus the future of transportation shouldn’t be electrical ONLY.
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There should be real work on assigning certain mobility technologies and resources to certain types of usage and geographical constraints. EVs in the city for short trips with easily accessible charging points.
Hydrogen or bio total for medium range and maybe keep the fossil fuel or e-fuel for long runs where refueling is complex and infrastructures are challenging to adapt.
The future of mobility to solve the resource and pollution problem of the planet will have to be diversified, or it will only shift our actual political and issues of sustainability to new ones with as significant consequences as before.
Here is what Thomas DAL, Dean, Strate School of Design says, “I’m wondering why EVs emerged exactly when the planet started to understand that with the rare fraction of fossil fuel! The world would depend more on the few countries that can still supply petrol.
The real reason is maybe not because of the rise of the will to fight pollution. But they are fighting an economic war to avoid a significant and increasing dependency on the middle east, decreasing fossil fuel resources, and finding more financial autonomy.”