In a recent study carried out by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, electric cars were analyzed in comparison to petrol and diesel cars in regards to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact. Both the initial energy investment involved with the production of electric cars as well as the long term performance of the cars were investigated and produced some interesting results. While the direct emissions of an electric car are virtually non-existent making it a favorable option for many environmentally conscious people out there, there are severe indirect impacts on current global issues such as acid rain and global warming.
The study found that the production of an electric car actually requires more energy and therefore more fossil fuel combustion than in the production of traditional petrol and diesel cars. As long as factories that produce electric cars are still reliant on fossil fuel energy sources the impact on greenhouse gas emissions will stay similar to petrol and diesel cars.
At the same time, the study considered the sources of electricity most users would draw from to charge their vehicle. In North America especially, most energy production is not renewable and is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. With this in consideration, the process of recharging an electric car would still require the combustion of fossil fuels and the emissions of greenhouse gases.
European countries have a much more sustainable distribution of energy production generally drawing from renewable sources. In these cases, electric cars beat petrol and diesel cars in greenhouse gas emission reductions in certain cases. Aside from power sources, the limiting factor on this advantage is the lifetime of the car, i.e the battery life.
With a lifetime of 200,000km, electric cars were estimated to beat petrol cars in global warming benefits by 27-29%, and 17-20% in diesel cars. Similarly for a lifetime of 100,000km, the advantages were only 9-14% with respect to petrol cars and an indistinguishable advantage when compared to diesel.
Another consideration that must be addressed is the toxicity of the elements contained within the battery itself: once a battery must be replaced, the disposal of the old battery becomes an issue. Electric cars could potentially have an overall negative impact on global acid rain due to the acidity of old batteries.
The implementation of electric cars has been a long process struggling to gain popularity over classic combustion vehicles. With this study taken into consideration, however, the promotion of electric cars isn’t the main issue at hand. Without a proper infrastructure to support electric cars there is almost no benefit to switching from petrol and diesel based cars.
Before the widespread use of electric cars is taken too seriously, the proper energy sources for electricity production must be addressed. So if you’re thinking about making the switch yourself, do a little research into your local power producers and think twice before buying into the electric revolution.