The usage of electric vehicles (EVs is increasing globally but questions are also being raised about their environment-friendly impact despite the 'zero emission' feature. There is no simple answer to the debate around the question 'how green is the EVs' in reality.
EVs entail a higher initial investment of energy and higher emissions; but leave a lower carbon footprint eventually over their lifetime, says a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Energy Initiative.
By 2030, the total number of EVs worldwide, excluding the two-wheelers, are expected to cross the 14.5-crore mark, as per the Paris based International Energy Agency.
Driving an EV is better for the environment than driving a fossil-fuel-powered car in 95 percent of cases across the globe, according to the 2020 studies conducted by researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Exeter, and Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
The positive benefits of EC being a better eco-alternative can be seen within six to 16 months of average driving (using clean energy) in the US or two years in the European Union countries.
However, experts are also raising concerns around the greenhouse gas emissions of the EV manufacturing process and charging of their batteries. EV batteries consume raw materials such as rare earth elements — lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite — and the large-sized batteries store more energy, as per the Union of Concerned Scientists.
For every electric car (EC) to have zero-emission by 2050, the world would need close to 100 percent of cobalt, 75 percent of lithium and at least 50 percent of copper of the total existing annual global production.
The energy-intensive process of EV manufacturing leads to 30-40 percent more emissions relatively and battery production is the biggest culprit, as per researchers from the Cambridge Centre.
Researchers from MIT have made a forecast that the emissions from electric cars can be reduced to 50 gms (of carbon dioxide) per mile (gCO2/m) by 2050 (down 75 percent) from the existing 200gCO2/m (in the US) through a clean green grid.
The EU grid mix is expected to come down to 200gCO2 eq/km in 2030, and 80gCO2 eq/km in 2050, as per UE28 forecasts.
In the fossil fuel car industry, 99 percent of batteries are recycled but a small percentage of lithium-ion batteries of EVs are being recycled, as per the international council of clean transportation (ICCT) study. McKinsey's report urged companies to increase the recycling of EV batteries while other researchers seek better infrastructure for decarbonizing the grid.
First Published: IST