Electric cars are becoming popular among the stakeholders of mobility across the world since reducing carbon emissions and pollution is a growing concern for many people. Electric cars emit fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants over their lifetime than diesel or gasoline-powered internal combustion engine vehicles. Electric cars are completely eco-friendly as they run on electrically powered engines. It does not emit toxic gases or smoke in the environment as it runs on a clean energy source. They are even better than hybrid cars as hybrids running on gas produce emissions. Electric cars can significantly contribute to improving the air quality of towns and metropolitan cities across the world. One electric car can save ~1.5 million grams of carbon dioxide over a year.
However, the manufacturing of electric cars uses a considerable amount of energy. The emissions created during the manufacturing of electric car is higher as compared to conventional cars. An electric car uses lithium-ion batteries for storing electric energy to power the traction motors. The manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries creates a considerable amount of greenhouse gas. According to estimates, more than 75% of the lifetime emission of carbon dioxide from an electric vehicle is generated while manufacturing the car.
The location where the battery is manufactured also plays an important role in determining the lifecycle emissions of electric vehicles. For instance, a battery manufactured in a manufacturing facility in Asia will have higher estimated lifecycle emissions since the majority of electricity used to power the manufacturing facility comes from coal. For manufacturing facilities in other regions, such as Nevada (U.S.), lifecycle emissions estimates for electric car batteries tend to be lower since the electricity generation in Nevada is ~30% less carbon-intensive than the U.S. average. Nevada has phased out nearly all of its coal-based power plants over the past two decades. Hence, the factory manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles also play an important role in determining the lifecycle emissions of the electric vehicles as around 50% of the battery life cycle emissions come from the electricity used in battery manufacture and assembly. The technological advancements in the battery manufacturing process can change this scenario. With the increased efficiencies in the manufacturing process, the volume of emissions created during the production of batteries will reduce.
Another major source of greenhouse gas emission related to electric vehicles is the source of electricity generation. The source of electricity production plays an important role in determining the environmental friendliness of electric vehicles. Although electric cars do not have any tailpipe emissions, electric car driving in the U.S. or some Asian countries will probably be responsible for higher carbon dioxide emissions since fossil fuels, such as coal, account for more than 60% of the energy produced in these regions. An electric car driven in some European countries, such as Iceland, will probably be responsible for considerably less carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime since almost the entire energy requirement of Iceland is generated through renewable sources, such as hydro, geothermal, and solar energy. The climate targets set in the Paris agreement also require electric generation to become less carbon-intensive, which will further increase the environmental advantages of electric vehicles over conventional vehicles.
Additionally, the batteries of an electric car are not successfully recycled as with the lead-acid batteries of conventional vehicles. The lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles have a very specific mix of chemical components and very little lithium quantity, making lithium recycling, not a very attractive market opportunity. For instance, on average, only 5% of lithium is being recycled in the European market while the rest was either being incinerated or dumped in landfills. This specifically reduces the environmental advantages of electric cars as they contribute to land pollution.
However, the increasing research and development in recycling electric car batteries to recover rare earth elements will develop a strong recycling industry for these batteries since the electric market is growing. Successful development of the recycling industry around electric car batteries will allow electric cars to become greener and more environment-friendly. Moreover, reusing electric car batteries for storing energy from wind or solar energy sources and support the electric grid of buildings would also help offset the environmental impacts of making the batteries.
Moreover, the growing research and development in vehicle-to-grid technology, also known as vehicle-grid integration, can help in reducing the lifetime environmental impact of electric vehicles. Vehicle-to-grid technology involves resupplying unused power from the car’s battery to the smart grid to help to reduce the energy load on the power grid during peak hour requirements. Vehicle-to-grid technology can also be used as an emergency power supply for homes during a storm-induced power outage. These factors can help in reducing the lifetime environmental impact of electric vehicles and reduce greenhouse gas generation.
In conclusion, although electric cars do not emit any carbon dioxide, while driven, as tailpipe emissions, they create greenhouse gas emissions in various other stages of their life cycle: during manufacturing, energy production, and at the end of their lifecycle. The mining activities to extract rare earth metals used in batteries and the battery manufacturing process itself are intensively energy-consuming and generate a considerable amount of greenhouse gases. The energy produced for recharging electric vehicles also plays a considerable role in determining the environmental friendliness of electric cars. An electric car powered through energy generated using fossil fuels still generated a considerable amount of greenhouse gases compared to a car powered through energy generated using renewable energy sources. Lastly, recycling batteries is an expensive process, and most electric car batteries are not being recycled at their end of the lifecycle.
However, continuous research and development activities are being carried out to develop innovative solutions for making electric cars greener, more eco-friendly, and sustainable. It has already shown the efficiency of electric cars in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, especially if they are powered with clean electricity. Various countries across the world have already realized this. They have released supportive policies and incentives, mostly in the form of financial benefits that make electric cars economically more competitive.
Meticulous Research®, in its latest publication on Electric Cars Market states that the Electric Car Market is expected to reach a value of $1.9 trillion by 2028, at a CAGR of 37.1% during the forecast period 2021-2028. In terms of volume, this market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 36.2% from 2021 to reach 69.3 million units by 2028.