Electric vehicles­: More eccentric than sustainable

Many believe that electric vehicles are the future; however, they may not be as eco-friendly as many believe. (Photos: Freepik)
As the world becomes more environmentally conscious and pushes sustainability into the spotlight, everyone anxiously awaits the widespread implementation of electric vehicles (EV).اضافة اعلان

In our article on solar panels and their true environmental impact, Jordan News outlined the potential consequences of solar panels on the environment, the most significant consequence being the recyclability of these highly complex energy generators.

Similarly to the panels, EVs are also often regarded as one of the most impactful changes that humanity will experience regarding total greenhouse emission reductions. However, just like the solar panels, hidden dangers lurk beneath the surface, often disregarded in the name of excitement for a newly introduced technology.

While EVs will positively impact eco-sustainability in the short run, it is essential to ensure that such technologies’ waste, reuse, and refurbishing is determined before their implementation. 

Additionally, and possibly more importantly, the sources of electricity and their ecological costs must be considered when measuring the benefits to the environment by EVs to prevent an over-inflation of results.

The coal conundrum 

Up until recently, coal was one of the primary energy-generating catalysts for all energy consumption worldwide. However, coal is a non-renewable resource that takes millions of years to form, and therefore is finite and will inevitably lead to shortages of power.

Scientists in the 1930s recognized this and developed the next best thing — nuclear reactors. The first nuclear reactor was built in 1942; it was considered a significantly more sustainable resource, with almost limitless potential for progress. 

However, as time progressed, it became evident that while nuclear is definitely a way forward, it too had its drawbacks, including radioactive waste and the limited amount of uranium available in the world; nuclear power also seems to be a far stretch from being a time-sustainable option. 

Even with all of the technology available for sustainable energy generation, we are currently looking at solar, wind, and hydropower as the primary “renewable” energy sources.

However, currently, all three of these power sources only contribute less than 30 percent of the total generated electricity in the world — barely enough to power even the most basic of utilities.

EVs, run off electricity. However, at the same time, electricity is predominantly generated from coal — an energy source that negatively impacts the planet’s sustainability. 

For precisely this reason, most numbers that support the growth of sustainable transportation are often skewed because not all electricity is made equal. 
In countries like France, the UK, Sweden, and Germany, which have the most amount of renewable energy generated, EVs are considerably more efficient and carbon-neutral than those that produce a lower amount per capita, such as China, Russia, or most countries in the Middle East. 

In essence, a watt of power that comes from a country with 20 percent of total energy generated from renewable sources is significantly less harmful than a watt that comes from a country with 10 percent. Therefore, EV propagation is only as beneficial to the environment as the country in which these vehicles are utilized. 

Those AAA’s won’t recycle themselves 

The biggest argument against EVs is the lack of an efficient way to reuse, refurbish, or recycle batteries. 

Batteries contain several heavy metals and toxic chemicals that make it incredibly difficult to dispose of batteries. 

Adding recyclability into the mix and things get murky. Current EV companies state that there are plans in the road ahead to refurbish parts of batteries to maintain relative eco-sustainability — but the percent of the battery that will be re-utilized isn’t entirely clear. 

Batteries are also incredibly challenging to make, especially those for EV’s and their hybrid counterparts. 

The previously mentioned components that are difficult to recycle also happen to be incredibly challenging to obtain, many of which require heavy investments into industrial mining rigs to create sustainable production. 

Mining of these rare minerals, just as was the case with solar panels, is damaging on its own to the environment, offsetting the benefits of electric vehicles. Additionally, there simply isn’t enough of those natural resources in existence to begin with — therefore dooming the whole green energy use initiative. 

Last but most certainly not least, building the cars themselves is a highly taxing process on the environment.  

Just like traditional cars, the process of acquiring, melting, and manufacturing steel carcasses and piecing the cars together hasn’t exactly been ‘greened’ up, unlike the final product. 

As a result, the overall emissions of a life cycle of a green vehicle are still quite damning to the environment — although the majority of the population is lead to believe otherwise. 

Not all doom and gloom 

While everything may look treacherous, there are silver linings on the road ahead; while the electric vehicle isn’t quite as new as we believe, with the first models coming out as early as the mid-1900s, we have most certainly progressed in terms of efficiency, power, and speed. 

We have also created new ways of generating energy, such as the latest trend of research into geothermal energy, where underground vents deep below the ocean are being experimented on in order to find a way to maximize energy generated by heating vents on the seafloor. 

It is reasonable to believe that all countries will, inevitably, generate proportionally more significant amounts of renewable energy in contrast to their non-renewable counterparts. Therefore the efficiency of electric vehicles will only skyrocket. 

As the new players on the EV block, companies such as Tesla, Toyota, Nissan, and most recently Volkswagen will have to come up with appropriate methodologies of disposing of or potentially even fully refurbishing electric batteries to combat their limited lifespans. 

Currently, it is estimated that an electric battery can range anywhere between 400,000km to 700,000km, after which it would need a replacement. 

While this is bound to change, there will likely never be a genuinely infinite battery lifespan; therefore, electric vehicles will never genuinely be as green as people may think without the proper reuse or safe disposal of materials. 

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