The European Union has announced aggressive fleet CO2 emission reduction targets for both 2025 and 2030, with any business fleets that don’t comply potentially in for hefty sanctions.
Naturally, companies with fleets are looking into going green in every way, and electric vehicles are being promoted as one of the very best ways to do that.
But how green are electric vehicles really? We decided to investigate.
Mythbusting: Are electric cars really greener?
To begin with, it’s important to note that electric cars on the whole produce much lower numbers of ozone-damaging fumes than combustion engine vehicles.
That’s backed up by data on Carbon Counter, which clearly shows that petrol and diesel vehicles give off greater number of greenhouse gases than hybrids, battery operated vehicles and fuel cell vehicles.
So, from that perspective alone, yes, electric vehicles really are greener.
However, it’s not quite as simple and straightforward as that.
To thoroughly answer the question “are EV cars actually safer for the environment?” we first need to look at the subject from more angles than just the fumes they produce…
Where ‘green’ energy comes from
The fumes given off by EVs might be less polluting, but to understand how green electric vehicles are we first need to look at where the fuel they run on comes from.
For starters, according to the National Grid website around 43% of the UK’s energy is renewable. That means we’re off to a great start – even before you consider how the carbon footprint of the energy sector is falling faster in the UK than any other country in the world.
But what does this all translate to in terms of raw CO2 output from an EV vs traditional motors? Well, using Carbon Counter we compared four vehicles for carbon emissions:
|Car||Fuel Type||Carbon dioxide per mile (CO2 eq/mile)|
|BMW i3s||Full EV||131|
|Honda Accord | Hybrid Sport/Touring
|Toyota 86 automatic||Petrol||320g|
|4Ram 1500 2WD Diesel 3.0L StartStop||Diesel||347g|
As you can see, the CO2 output of the all-electric BMW i3s per mile really is significantly lower than even the hybrid model – giving a good indication of how green electric vehicles are when directly compared to other kinds of fuel types. When you factor in that electric fuel is also substantially greener to produce in the first place, this looks like a win for EVs.
How EVs are built
It’s a different story however when we start to consider the environmental impacts of the way electric vehicles are constructed.
For starters, the lithium batteries that go into electric vehicles are high in cobalt. This presents several problems from both an ethical and pollutive standpoint.
Firstly, much of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Congo, where studies have shown it can leach into the environment and expose nearby communities, leading to health problems.
Second, much of this cobalt comes from unregulated mines where workers (often children) use ‘artisanal’ methods to mine the metal – in other words, digging it out with hand tools; a particularly precarious and health-hazardous task.
While automotive companies have committed to doing away with artisanal cobalt, and eventually eliminating cobalt altogether, the technology is far away from being realised.
Similarly, lithium supply can also pose a problem in terms of environmentalism. Lithium mining is known to use incredible amounts of groundwater which lessens that available to local farmers in incredibly hot countries like Australia, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, where that water is sorely needed for crop irrigation and livestock sustenance. In terms of mythbusting whether electric cars really are greener, then you should consider the fact that EV production may be another 50% more water intensive than manufacturing of more traditional combustion engines. Add the fact that global lithium demand could be up to four times higher by 2030, and a predicted lithium shortage from 2025 could create an altogether different problem for EV manufacturers.
What happens to used EV batteries at the end of their lifecycle?
Another consideration when asking ‘how much greener are electric vehicles?’ should be the disposal of their lithium batteries. This has been called the ‘elephant in the room’ by City A.M. which reports that over 339,000 tonnes of lithium batteries will have reached end-of-life according to a study by researchers at The University of Warwick.
“Investment is needed to create suitable recycling facilities in the UK within the next few years,” David Greenwood, Professor of Advanced Propulsion Systems at WMG, told City Am.M reporters. “Beyond that, research is needed to allow economic recovery of much greater proportions of the battery material. In doing so we will protect the environment, secure valuable raw materials, and reduce the cost of transport.”
Considering that most vehicles in the UK are predicted to have a ithium battery by 2035, this is clearly going to become a source of greater and greater urgency over the coming decade. Indeed, it may be too early to truly answer how green electric vehicles are until more robust and environmentally friendly battery-recycling measures are put in place by automotive companies – on a global scale.
One thing, however, is for sure at this stage…
EVs can certainly help lower your fleet emissions
While it’s certainly not perfect, and the industry around production of different aspects of electric cars certainly needs investment to grow into a truly green enterprise, what’s clear is that electric vehicles are certainly the best way to help business fleet hit EU Co2 reduction targets.
If you’re thinking about making the switch but you’re not sure about the charging infrastructure you might need or the costs involved, take a look at the blogs below or get in touch with our expert team today – they’ll be happy to help!