Electric vehicles and their impact

 In Electricity, Museums, Renewable energy

Cars, trains, buses, passenger jets have all changed human society and dynamics irreversibly. Since the late 19th century, they have allowed us to deliver and trade goods all around the world, given our cities transport networks that ferry millions of people to and from work every day, and provided many people with jobs and hobbies when it comes to building and maintaining the vehicles we use every single day.

But the double-edged sword of these technical innovations that have allowed us to progress as a species has been the amount of pollution that fuel-burning engines have pumped out into the atmosphere, something that was not even widely acknowledged by mainstream narratives until the late 1970s. Now, an ever-growing risk of spiralling climate change and potentially irreparable damage to the Earth’s atmosphere has pushed more governments globally to place huge importance on reducing carbon emissions and the manufacture of electric vehicles has been high on the agenda.

Electric vehicles have obvious and immediate environmental benefits, the most obvious being zero CO2 emissions. A Tesla Model S P100D, for example, costs in the region of £85,000, produces 692bhp and emits 0g/km of CO2. In contrast, a traditional petrol competitor to the P100D – the Mercedes Benz E63 AMG – emits 254g/km.

In the realm of commercial vehicles, Tesla, Volvo and other manufacturers are currently developing electric lorries and trucks with the aim of tackling the issue of range that crops up frequently with electric vehicles. The haulage industry is a large pollutant, with an articulated diesel lorry expelling anywhere up to 10 times as much as an average road car.

But, one of the issues with electric vehicles being touted as ‘zero emissions’ is that this tagline is only partially true. Of course, the vehicles themselves are – but the manufacturing process and how the electricity needed to charge the batteries are not. EV battery technology is becoming more sophisticated but makes heavy usage of lithium, a mineral that is extremely expensive to mine in large quantities.

Electric vehicles are still a viable option for a cleaner future, but perhaps more could be done to see that the precious electricity needed to keep EVs on the road can be generated from renewable energy sources, instead of traditional coal powerplants and generators. The impact of electric vehicles on the Earth’s environment is definitely much less than traditional cars and buses, but there is still plenty of work to be done to fight the ever-increasing amount of carbon dioxide present in our air.

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