Not many subjects can stir up as much emotion as talk about the environment. And when it comes to electric cars and their impact on the environment, there are as many opinions as there are species of birds. Here is a brief explanation of how electric cars can impact the environment, as well as how combustion engine cars compare with them.
Enthusiasts of electric cars are quick to point out that their cars do not emit any pollution at all, while another group will direct your attention to the power stations that are coal fired (which generate the electricity for the electric cars. These groups may have a point, which is considered separately without the bigger picture. Hence, the relative merits are not fairly assessed, and neither are the different technologies and vehicle types compared and gauged.
The European Commission has set the standard for measuring car emissions based on the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted from the car’s exhaust, measured in grams of CO2 for every kilometer (CO2 g/km). This is a “tank to wheel” measurement, where the emission is measured from the moment the fuel is pumped into the tank until the energy is used.
This measurement gives electric cars the upper hand, as they do not emit carbon dioxide, but this measurement is not measuring any type of cars’ true carbon footprint, electric or combustion engine. The true carbon footprint can be measured accurately only if the whole process of extraction, refining and transportation of the oil is included. This second option of measurement is the “well to wheel” measurement. It gives a better and truer comparison between the different types of cars – i.e., electric and combustion engine. Hence, one must compute the “well to wheel” figures on both the oil and the electricity.
You will need to consider the following measurements when comparing the combustion engine to the electric car’s impact on the environment:
• Air pollution
• Fuel economy
• Impact of batteries on the environment
• The process of energy production and transportation of combustion engines and electricity fuels
• The process of manufacturing and recycling of the vehicle
No matter what you think about climate change, it is a fact that there is excessive pollution occurring in many towns and cities across the globe. Germany is estimated to have more than 65,000 people dying prematurely each year due to over-pollution, and many European countries experience a lowered life expectancy, from 9 months to 1-2 years earlier than expected.
It is estimated that worldwide, two million people die each year due to over-pollution with tens of millions suffering from illnesses related to pollution, such as lung and heart diseases, breathing difficulties and chest pains. Globally, air pollution is recognized by medical authorities to be a primary public health issue, besides being an environmental issue.
Transportation is blamed for a good majority of air pollution. Scientists, policy makers, politicians and others who are concerned about traffic pollution being the main issue list the harmful effects and reasons for their targeted concern:
• Global, industrial and domestic sources of pollution are making progress over time while traffic pollution globally is going from bad to worse (10)
• Particulate matters (tiny particles of toxic materials) from vehicle exhaust are very dangerous if breathed in, penetrating deeply into the lungs and bloodstream and potentially damaging the internal organs
While transportation emissions may be a major contributing factor, it is not the only cause of air pollution. Even homes and many types of industries can be linked to air pollution, and these causes must be addressed before real and lasting change can be realized.