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How Environmentally Friendly Are Electric Cars?

23 Sep 2021
How Environmentally Friendly Are Electric Cars? |

Are Electric Cars Good For The Environment?

Electric cars are quickly becoming more popular, but how environmentally friendly are they? The answer to that question is complicated. To start with, electric vehicles (EVs) produce less pollution. They do not release any tailpipe emissions and can be charged with electricity generated by wind power or solar panels on your rooftop. However, the production of EVs contributes greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide during the creation of batteries and other components. This means that while an EV might reduce our own personal contribution to air pollution, it may increase air pollution in some areas where these parts are made. Check out this article for more information about how environmentally friendly electric cars really are!


The environmental impact of manufacturing electric cars

The same kind of environmental impacts that are associated with the development of other kinds of vehicles are present in electric car production. These include mining, energy use during manufacturing and distribution, transportation of materials to factory assembly lines, chemicals used in fabrication processes, waste disposal, and use of water resources for cooling or above-ground ponds for disposing run-off liquids.

The environmental impacts to be measured of an electric car are the effects brought on by factories, transportation, mining, production, re-fueling, and driving the vehicle(s) in question. Producing a battery for an electric vehicle requires a wide variety of steps, from mining ores to refining metals, all requiring large quantities of energy. While electric cars may be more environmentally friendly than gasoline cars in the long run as they’re powered by electricity rather than fossil fuels, their overall manufacture and  batteries currently can have negative environmental impacts during production. In fact, research suggests that producing batteries is more harmful to the environment if those operations are based in Europe or the US rather than places like China or Japan where coal is used as a power source for electricity more often.

But to be clear electric cars are indeed better for the environment than conventional sources of propulsion systems. The environmental impacts of manufacturing electric cars are therefore less now that they use electricity instead of fossil fuels. It’s true that electric car batteries have an environmental impact, but these are offset by the benefits of using power from a clean renewable source like electricity rather than gas or diesel fuel. Electric cars are fairly new and they will see enhancements in production and reduction in negative environmental impacts over time.

Some argue that electric cars have only a positive environmental impact because they do not require gasoline. However, the truth is far more complicated than this. The electricity powering an electric car could just as easily have powered other things like air conditioning units at homes, which could reduce emissions for those individual properties instead. Alternatively it might be better to invest in decentralized power generation systems that produce less emissions before burning anything at all (such as solar, wind or geothermal power).

Even if the electricity powering an electric car came from renewable sources like hydroelectric, nuclear or renewables that have zero carbon emissions, it still has issues. Solar panels are made using toxic materials that leach into water supplies when they are disposed of. Copper cables may have to be transported long distances to connect remote wind facilities with population centers where the electricity is needed. These activities themselves create waste and pollution problems as essentially every process involves some form of negative environmental impact.


How do electric vehicles work


Electric vehicles, or EVs for short, use batteries to power their motors instead of gasoline.

The main components of a battery include a positive and negative electrode as well as an electrolyte solution that acts as the conductor between the two electrodes. When you charge a battery, it is pumping energy into these components so they can do work later on. To understand how this process relates to EVs, you must understand what happens when a battery is discharging electricity to move an electric car.

Electric vehicles receive electrical power from a variety of sources. Most EVs now in use are powered by rechargeable batteries that store energy chemically. Other EVs are powered through a plug-in system where the battery is charged by connecting it to an external source of electricity - for example standard AC mains power or an alternator/generator with mechanical connection to the drivetrain (for example on large trucks). Some designs use combinations of these techniques - for example hybrid solar cells combined with battery charging and regenerative braking.

EVs include - among other things - cars, motorcycles, buses, trucks, neighborhood/city/off-road vehicles and specialty vehicles like golf carts and forklifts. EVs are being manufactured and sold by major car makers as well as startup companies. EVs are an important part of the electric power system, which also includes renewable energy sources, demand response, electricity storage and smart grid. Furthermore some businesses are using mobile EV charging stations.


Why it’s important to consider buying a hybrid or electric car

With the price of gas at an all-time high, it's more important than ever to consider alternative methods for transportation. Hybrids and electric cars have been on a steady rise in recent years because their fuel efficiency compared with traditional gasoline-powered vehicles is better than you might think! In addition there are other benefits like less air pollution caused by un-needed petroleum combustion engines, less maintenance costs, fewer parts which need changed annually, cheaper to fuel, and tax incentives, which makes electric vehicles and hybrids worth looking into.

Every year, there are more and more cars being sold on the market. This has led to an increasingly larger number of emissions which have been harmful to our environment. Although companies have been increasing their efforts in producing more fuel-efficient vehicles, it is still necessary that people have a higher awareness of how they contribute towards environmental issues. In order to reduce pollution, one can consider buying a hybrid/electric car as it would lead them down the path of personal sustainability while helping out Mother Earth at the same time.


Advantages of electric cars


- They are typically cheaper to maintain than gas-powered cars (no oil changes, no new spark plugs, less moving parts, etc.)


- They are cleaner while running, emitting no carbon monoxide, fumes, emissions, or sulfur gases into the atmosphere


- They require less upkeep because there's no need for oil changes, air filters or spark plugs


- In most cases electricity is cheaper than gasoline so you'll save money on fuel


- Full electric vehicles are truly zero emission, so there's no harmful emissions into the environment


- EV charging stations are becoming more and more available


- EVs tend to be much quieter than gas cars, making them better for use in urban areas where noise pollution is high or near hospitals, libraries or other quiet zones. 


- Most people prefer electric cars today rather than gasoline cars.


- Some EV’s are incredibly quick and can be just as sporty (if not more) as other gas powered vehicles


- Contrary to popular belief, EVs are not more expensive than internal combustion engine vehicles as a result of their battery technology. The price difference is made up entirely in the cost of electricity vs gasoline/diesel fuel for conventional vehicles. In many states, charging EVs from your home can actually be cheaper than buying gasoline.


- They use less energy from the wall socket per mile driven, making them extremely efficient and giving you a much longer range per kWhr used


- You don't pay an annual state tax on emissions stickers (an average of $148 per year) when you drive an EV instead of a gas car


- Their batteries can be recharged for free using electricity generated from solar panels on the roofs of houses.


- Electric cars do not produce smog


- They have fewer parts that break down over time, so there's less repair work involved.


- EVs have better acceleration because batteries can deliver their maximum torque over a wider range of speeds


- They're more reliable because there are fewer things to go wrong with them.   


What do electric car batteries contain and how does this affect the environment


There are many environmental impacts of manufacturing electric cars. Not only does the mining and refining of metals like lithium, copper, iron and cobalt for batteries produce pollution, but the batteries themselves require huge amounts of energy to produce. This is especially true if they employ recycled materials or parts from older car batteries that would otherwise be landfill bound (although some companies like Tesla and BMW attempt to use renewable energy in their production processes).

Batteries also contain heavy metals like cadmium, lithium and nickel which can slowly leach into ground water over time. Cobalt is especially worrisome — while we typically think of cobalt as a harmless element found in makeup and jewelry, it is toxic when used industrially. Electric car batteries also contain lead, which reacts with other metals inside a landfill to create sulfuric acid, which can then leak out into the surrounding soil or water supply. This could have harmful effects on humans or animals who come into contact with it. Batteries are also filled with cadmium, a toxic chemical element used in nickel-cadmium battery construction that can be fatal if ingested by humans or livestock, as well as mercury, another neurotoxin that can cause loss of brain function, kidney damage and respiratory failure.

It’s important that electric car batteries are disposed of and recycled properly to avoid any ill effects on the environment. We also don’t exactly know the average longevity of electric vehicle


Do electric cars use oil?


Electric cars do not use motor oil as they do not have any pistons that need constant lubrication and cooling to function. But, there are two types of electric car motors depending on the application:  brushless type for EVs with integrated transmission (in-wheel motor) and non-brushless type which is more common in HEVs/PHEVs where the motor does not have an integrated transmission system. Non-brushless DC motors appear in many shapes ranging from pancake through radial cylindrical or even flat 2D planar design. Most of them do not require any oil to work but if they have a gearbox it needs to be lubricated.

For the brushless type, the motor needs oil seals and oil lubrication or pre-filled with synthetic transmission fluid. Some motors have an oil-cooled stator which requires special attention from maintenance point of view. Lubricant change intervals vary from manufacturer to manufacturer for most EV applications but usually every two years or 100k miles is suggested interval. 


Do electric cars burn fossil fuels?

Electric cars do not burn fossil fuels directly; however, the burning of fossil fuels is typically required for supplying the car's battery to be charged with electricity. In most cases coal or natural gas is burned in power stations to generate electricity that then runs through power lines into your car charger where it powers up your vehicle. Thus, if your home was powered by renewable energy sources like solar energy panels on the roof and wind turbines in the garden, electric vehicles might be emission-free (in theory). The production process for batteries using the rare earth elements neodymium, gadolinium and dysprosium results in the emission of greenhouse gases as well and the use of fossil fuels to mine and process these materials.

As renewable & sustainable energy forms become more available in time, the ecological impact to charge and manufacture electric vehicles will be less. Utilizing solar power, wind power, water power, etc. will propel EV’s forward and reduce the carbon footprint of electric and hybrid cars.


Do electric cars emit emf?

Electric cars do emit emf. Electric cars use electricity and convert it into kinetic energy by way of electric motors.

Electricity is composed of charged particles called electrons, which carry emf when in motion relative to a reference point. This can be harnessed to power the world around us, such as in an electric car.

The electron's negative charge not only propels them forward but also creates a magnetic field around it at right angles to its velocity. When placed between the poles of a magnet this magnetic field lines up with the external field and either drag or propel the vehicle along based on which pole is closest or furthest away.


Do electric cars reduce carbon footprints?

Yes, and no. Electric cars are becoming more popular around the world, not only because they are ecologically friendly but also because they do not emit poisonous pollutants when in use. However, some experts say that these vehicles actually increase carbon footprints because of their production process. In terms of if electric cars reduce carbon footprints during use in comparison to their gas counterparts? Yes, electric vehicles do not directly produce emissions from use, but the source of the electricity that charges the vehicle may come from a source that uses fossil fuels and creates emissions.

The majority of electric car batteries are produced in Asia. The main producers are China, Japan and South Korea who account for 94% of global lithium-ion battery production. While most batteries made in Asia are used domestically to power electronics like phones, laptops or cameras, they are exported to electric car manufacturing plants around the world where they are integrated into the final product. If we already have enough batteries to meet global demand why produce more? This is especially true when you consider that the process of producing lithium-ion batteries is extremely energy intensive and releases toxic chemicals, which has led to protests in countries where processing plants are located.

The process begins with the mining of raw materials like nickel, cobalt or aluminum followed by purification and conversion into metal oxide powders. These are then heated to high temperatures creating highly flammable liquids (lithium salt) which are poured into molds to make cathodes (negative electrode). Cathodes are submerged in other highly flammable liquids (solvents) containing various chemical compounds like ethylene carbonate or dimethyl carbonate before being stuffed into steel canisters called anodes. The final step involves filling these containers with electrolytes made up of organic solvents, lithium salt and other chemicals to make the liquid portion of the battery. The mixture is heated under high pressure to create solid polymer cells which are placed in plastic cases for protection before being shipped to electric car manufacturers around the world.

Once inside cars, these batteries need constant recharging which partially depletes their life expectancy. This can be done at home by plugging them into an outlet or at charging stations (like gasoline stations) around major cities; but mostly at public places like mall parking lots where drivers can at times wait hours for their batteries to recharge. They also lose a small percentage of overall capacity every time they're charged so as time goes on the vehicle will lose its full optimal driving range on a full charge and require more frequent charging. These batteries are also very expensive, which is why electric car manufacturers offer low monthly payments and subsidized charging. This means that the full cost of these vehicles is relatively unknown, there are many cost variables to take into consideration with any vehicle purchase whether it be petroleum fueled or electric.


How do electric cars affect climate change?

Electric cars produce no emissions at their point of use, so they do not contribute to climate change in that specific way. Although, electric cars are currently powered by electricity generated largely from coal-fired power stations, so electric cars do contribute to climate change at their point of use. Electric Cars produce many other pollutants during their lifetime in addition to CO2, so the overall effect on the environment is uncertain.

Most people would think that electric cars have no negative impacts on the environment but sadly this is untrue. This is because popular media coverage has helped create a perception that electric vehicles (EVs) are zero emission vehicles and thus have little impact on climate change. However, this persistent myth hides an unpleasant secret: in spite of being "zero emission" at the point of use (while driving), electric vehicles contribute to climate change through emissions from the energy generation sector, the manufacturing process, and the recycling/disposal process.

To understand how EVs affect climate change one must first consider their life cycle emissions - that is, their total emissions over the complete supply chain from raw material extraction and manufacturing to final use. This includes emissions from vehicle production, electricity generation and fuel production/extraction. No matter where your electricity comes from, it will still be necessary to account for all these upstream and downstream emissions when assessing a car's impact on the environment or comparing different cars/technologies. You can't just look at tailpipe emissions if you want to understand the true scale of environmental impacts.

When we do this for EVs we find that while they may produce less or no emissions at the point of use, they are far from zero emission. In fact EVs are only cleaner if the electricity used to power them comes from renewable or nuclear energy sources. If that electricity is generated by burning coal or natural gas then much greater emissions are produced during the production and charging process.


How do electric cars get their energy

Electric cars must be charged in one way or another but typically from a home plug in system or plug ins available at stores and gas stations. The car contains batteries, which consist of cells connected together. Each cell contains chemicals (generally lithium) that give off electrical energy when they interact with other chemicals. That chemical interaction occurs either between two electrodes immersed in an electrolyte or through a solid-state process involving metallic particles embedded in plastic. When the battery pack reaches its predetermined state of charge, it's then connected to an electric motor that turns one or more drive shafts transmitting power to the wheels of the vehicle. The electricity that powers EV’s in most cases comes from the power grid which may use other resources to produce electricity.


Do electric cars cause air pollution?

They do, but not in the way you might think.

You probably figured that cars running on gasoline or diesel emit pollutants into the atmosphere that combine with industrial emissions and create smog, acid rain and toxic runoff... But if a Tesla gets its power from a coal-fired plant instead of a solar panel does it make any difference? In fact, it can make quite a bit of difference. When you factor in the pollution from the entire process from mine to wheel, electric cars are also bad for the environment and cause air pollution. In the process of mining and refining raw materials for batteries, as well as shipping those to assembly plants, creating a finished electric car causes emissions that do negatively impact the environment.


In Summary

If you’ve been wondering about the impact of electric cars on the environment, we hope this blog post has given you some clarity. The impacts are mixed with both pros and cons depending on how they are used. Even though there may be more environmental benefits to owning an electric car than a gasoline-powered one, it's important to understand that not all electricity is created equal in terms of its carbon footprint for producing power plants. All things considered, it seems like your decision should depend largely on what type of vehicle best suits your lifestyle needs regardless if it runs off gas or batteries! For those who have found this article interesting, please share so others can benefit from these insights too!

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