Electric cars VS Environment. Will friendship win?

May 12, 2022 | Alexey Aliev

There is a growing debate about whether electric cars are eco-friendly. While some consider shifting to electric vehicles vital for the environment, others are sure that electric cars are as harmful to nature as usual cars.
So who is right?

The main issues with electric cars are related to the electricity generation and battery utilisation. About 40% of the world's electricity is obtained by coal combustion, and the massive transition to electric vehicles means that the need for electricity will become even bigger. Without alternative power sources decarbonisation is out of the question. The utilisation of batteries, whose service life now is 5-8 years, is also an unresolved issue, which means that heavy metals, contained in batteries, will pollute water and soil. Not to mention battery production, which involves the absolute evil – infamous greenhouse gas.

But even taking everything into account, electric cars are still safer than cars with internal combustion engines. An average electric car emits 50% less greenhouse gas than an average European car. Overall, electric vehicles are 30% safer than the usual transport.
With just greenhouse emissions cars with internal combustion engines produce more harm than electric cars altogether. And electric cars have much more space for further improvement: in the nearest future the infrastructure development will minimise the negative effect of electric vehicles on the environment.
Alternative energy to the rescue

Quite recently it was hard to imagine that the whole world would work on the power of sun, wind and other renewable sources. However, it will become a reality sooner rather than later. Big energy corporations actively invest in programmes of carbon phase-out – decarbonisation. Many of them plan to shift completely to “green” energy as soon as by 2040.

Obviously, this is a positive development for the eco-friendliness of electric vehicles: during the daytime electric cars can feed off the sun via special sheds, while during the nighttime the power of wind enters the scene.

And this is not even the future – this is reality. Evidence is the case of Austin Energy with their Charging Station Network programme, which allows their clients to get 100% of electricity from wind just for 4.17$ per month. Which means that the shift to electric vehicles does not mean more coal and more harm to the environment.
Wind turbines in Texas, USA (GABRIEL C. PÉREZ / KUT)
The battery is ready to evolve

The absence of a programme of battery utilisation is another issue for electric vehicles. And – these accusations seem to be quite overheated. The experts claim that the issue will become pressing only in 10 to 15 years, when the need for massive battery utilisation will be really the case.

By that time not only will the battery service life increase, but also the necessary utilisation programme will be developed. The leading manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, Nissan, and Renault, are already creating battery recycling plants. In the future, however, the transition to even cleaner recycling is planned – direct recycling, when the chemical structure of a battery is restored without shredding and incineration of cathode mixture, which is harmful to the environment.

According to forecasts, 100% recycling of batteries by 2040 will meet the industry’s up to 25% demand for lithium and up to 35% demand for cobalt and nickel. At the same time, the companies invest in the development of lithium batteries of 3rd and 4th generations, with longer service life of 10-20 years.
Electric car owners can also influence the preservation of a battery. One way of doing that is to use AC-powered charging stations instead of “fast” DC-powered charging stations. The difference in the speed of charging is not so big for the modern stations (which play the central role in the TOUCH’s software expansion strategy), while the difference in battery degradation is significant. Everyday charging of an electric car from a DC-powered charging station could lead to battery failure after 3,5 years of use. AC-powered charging stations, on the other hand, guarantee the safety of a battery almost during its whole service life.

AC-powered charging station from TOUCH

Furthermore, the carbonisation of the energy industry will make the battery production itself more “clean”, which means that already in 10 years the issue with batteries will become if not extinct, then at least less pressing.
What about combining everything together?

Integrated approach – the guarantee of success in the fight with air pollution. This includes:
  • “Clean” energy generation
  • Eco-friendly production and utilisation of batteries
  • Generation of “clean” electricity right where electric cars charge
  • The usage of AC-powered charging stations to increase the battery service life
  • The development of lithium batteries of new generation with increased battery service life
In the end such systems result in less greenhouse emission, and nowadays many manufacturers are ready to invest in that. The frontrunner is, of course, Tesla, which, apart from the charging station network, battery recycling plants and, well, electric car production, invested in a project called Tesla Energy, which creates infrastructure for the “clean” energy generation.

Tesla instals charging stations together with sheds out of solar panels

Special mention deserves their collaborative project with the University of the Pacific: they installed solar sheds for the electric vehicles charging in Stockton’s campus, with overall power of 5.3 megawatts.
There is no doubt that such an integrated approach is indeed the key to success of “green” technologies in the future and right now. This is how electric cars and ecology are reconciled.
Learn more