Electric Vehicles Can Get Along with Environment
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
On Sunday November 22, the Lowell Sun published the article “Electric vehicles may collide with the environment” by Jessica Towhey that claimed the massive scale-up of electric vehicles required to reduce carbon emissions would create its own environmental challenges, and implied climate activists may get in the way. That is not new news. Climate activists are working to ensure this solution doesn't harm the environment more than it is worth. The new EV industry has an inherent sustainability and environmental justice directive, that the original auto industry never had.
The Competitive Resource Institute Towhey cites claims that manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles is more carbon intensive than manufacturing conventional vehicle engines. That is NOT true if the electricity used to make the batteries is clean from wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear. Also, they aren't considering the whole product life-cycle, from production, to operation, to end-of-life recycling. In fact, a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation found that overall, electric vehicles typically have much lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than a typical petrol car in Europe (which tend to be more efficient then gasoline cars in the United States) even when using the dirty electricity mix available today. So as the electricity becomes cleaner and cleaner, the overall whole-life emissions of EVs will get lower and lower.
Another claim Towhey makes is that replacing gasoline with electricity does not eliminate emissions of air pollutants and carbon dioxide. Again that is only true if the electricity is generated by fossil fuels. Burning gasoline in your engine will always emit fine particulates and carbon dioxide. If clean electricity goes into your EV, nothing dirty comes out!
Mining the elements used in batteries is a concern, but so are tar sand pits and fracking to produce gasoline. Efforts are already being made to change the chemistry of the batteries to minimize elements whose mining raises environment and social concerns. In the same Sunday Sun, Llewellyn King's brilliant article "Don't worry about side effects" makes excellent points about how innovation will solve the challenges in replacing gasoline powered vehicles with EVs.
Another supposed problem is that battery manufacturing is growing in countries, like China, that don't have stringent environmental protections. That doesn’t sit well with EV naysayers, not for concern about the environment, but because of concern for economic independence. We don’t want to become dependent on batteries being made in China. That means the U.S. should lead the way in EV manufacturing without jeopardizing the environment. Maybe China is scaling battery production because they realize that having as many gasoline powered cars per-capita as we do would be suicidal.
Obviously, the purpose of this article was to squelch the enthusiasm for EVs. Fossil fuels are colliding with the environment much more. We need to speed the generation of clean electricity so the green wave of EVs coming will be truly green!