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  • Arfaan Salehin

Electric Cars and Climate Change

By Arfaan Salehin

January 2024


Introduction

Electric cars are an exciting, big development for our global community and for the good of the planet. Personally, I am a huge fan of cars. When I discovered the different ways electric cars can impact climate change, I knew I had to write an article about it!


Green or Not Green 

There is always a question to ask when it comes to buying or doing something that has the potential to affect climate change—“Is it green, or not green?”. Electric car experts generally agree that plug-in vehicles are much greener than traditional vehicles, which have internal combustion engines. Electric cars produce zero tailpipe emissions, which contributes significantly towards a more refined air quality and less greenhouse gas emissions. While it is often difficult to find vehicles which are more climate-friendly, many companies are increasing their production of electric cars lineups which are functional, well made, and worth purchasing. General Motors has said that it aims to stop selling new gasoline-powered cars and light trucks by 2035, and will instead pivot to battery-powered models. Volvo has said it will move even faster and produce an all-electric lineup by 2030.


Electric Car Sales

Electric cars are selling more mainly because there are more of them to buy. The COVID-19 pandemic has eased many manufacturers’ jobs, as there was not much demand back then for private vehicles. 

Below is a chart showcasing electric car sales in different global regions between 2016 and 2023.



In 2016, the number of electric cars sold globally was less than 1 million. However, over the following seven years, the sales have drastically increased to a whopping 13.9 million. This demonstrates the significant demand for electric vehicles; however, these sales are mostly concentrated in China, Europe and the United States of America.

Globally, 14% of new cars sold in 2022 were electric—an increase from the 9% in 2021. This shows how popular electric vehicles (EVs) have become, and how the manufacturers and companies are starting to increase their profits by selling EVs.

Why EVs? (Pros and Cons)

Well, EVs have seen a large increase in popularity for several reasons. Below are some of the pros and cons of EVs that people interested in buying them should know.

Pros:

  1. Environmental Benefits

  • Reduced Emissions: EVS have reduced tailpipe emissions, meaning lower air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

  1. Energy efficiency: 

  • Higher Efficiency: Electric motors are more energy-efficient than internal combustion engines, resulting in better energy conversion from electricity to vehicle movement.

  1. Lower Operating Costs:

  • Reduced Fuel Costs: Electricity is generally cheaper than gasoline or diesel, leading to lower fueling costs for EVs.

  • Lower Maintenance Costs: EVs have fewer moving parts, reducing maintenance requirements and costs over time.

  1. Innovative Features:

  • Advanced Technology: EVs often come equipped with cutting-edge technology, including software updates, autonomous driving features, and smart connectivity.

  1. Quiet Operation:

  • Reduced Noise Pollution: Electric vehicles are generally quieter than traditional vehicles, contributing to a less disruptive environment.

  1. Reduced Dependency on Fossil Fuels:

  • Diversification of Energy Sources: EVs can be charged using electricity from various sources, including renewable energy, reducing dependence on fossil fuels.


Cons:

  1. Limited Driving Range:

  • Range Anxiety: Some EVs have a limited driving range on a single charge, leading to concerns about running out of power during longer trips.


  1. Charging Infrastructure Challenges:

  • Charging Station Availability: In some regions, the charging infrastructure may be insufficient, leading to inconvenience for EV owners, especially in rural areas.


  1. Upfront Cost:

  • Higher Initial Cost: The upfront cost of purchasing an EV is often higher than that of traditional vehicles, although this gap is decreasing with time.


  1. Battery Degradation

  • Limited Battery Lifespan: EV batteries degrade over time, impacting their capacity and range. However, advancements in battery technology are addressing this concern.


Climate Issues

Charging an electric car also has an impact on the climate, as some chargers use the method of burning coal to generate electricity for the car. Electric cars still produce CO2, but less than the traditional internal combustion engines. For example, a Tesla Model 3 Long Range would produce a minimum of 13g of CO2 per kilometer. However, a Honda Civic Sedan would produce at least 165g of CO2 for the same distance. 

Climate change-related concerns are not noticed much in electric cars. Gas-powered vehicles may have more climate-related issues, but both types of vehicles encounter various environmental issues . These consist, for example, of materials like lithium being used in the batteries of the car. 

Lithium-ion batteries have a few downsides, although they are more climate-friendly than traditional gas engines. They are expensive, heat-sensitive, hard to recycle, and they have quite low energy density. However, we shouldn’t forget that there are also advantages that come with lithium-ion batteries. For example, they charge very fast, they need low maintenance, and they are light in weight.


Start Moving Towards Electric Cars (Outro)

Electric cars are the future of the auto industry as people are inventing more and more ways to make electric cars better for the future, so start moving towards a greener route and stop climate change by simply using electric vehicles rather than other traditional vehicles.


Bibliography

  1. Tabuchi, H., Plumer, B. March 2021, How Green Are Electric Vehicles? The New York Times, Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/02/climate/electri-vehicles-environment.html 

  2. International Energy Agency, Electric Car Sales, Available at: https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics/charts/electric-car-sales-2016-2023 

  3. Kittner, N., Kammen, D., 2020, Electric Vehicles, in Technological Learning in the Transition to a Low-Carbon Energy System, Science Direct. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/electric-vehicles  

  4. Mulvaney, K. June 2023. Interested in an electric car? Here's what you should know before you buy. National Geographic. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/electric-vehicles-cars-batteries-range-anxiety 

Energy5, December 2023. The Disadvantages of Lithium-Ion Batteries for Electric Cars, Available at: https://energy5.com/the-disadvantages-of-lithium-ion-batteries-for-electric-cars 

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