Are EVs Really Green?

By Joachim Brandt, Head of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles at Gemserv

Net Hero Podcast

Petrol and Diesel vehicles are destined to be phased out. Increasing concerns about air quality and the fear of the devastating impact climate change may have, are a strong impetus to swing into action sooner rather than later and curb the harmful emissions from fossil fuel vehicles.

Everything has upsides and downsides, so what makes Electric Vehicles (EVs) such an attractive choice to replace fossil fuel vehicles?

While Diesel and Petrol vehicles have come a long way, any further improvements to reduce emissions will significantly increase vehicle cost at marginal gains.

In comparison, electric vehicles open doors to new technologies that will provide a pathway to continuous improvement, as well as a migration from the old world to the new horizons of connected autonomous vehicles.

Electric is the way forward to greater fuel efficiency even for fossil fuel vehicles.

Electric vehicles come in all sorts of sizes and the electrification of power trains have been ongoing for quite some time. This can be observed in the market today, with the widespread introduction of electric motors as part of hybridised vehicle power trains.

There is no doubt that electric motors are a very efficient choice of propulsion in all transport modes.

For example, in marine applications, while power generations may still be fossil-based, the actual propulsion system has already converted to operating on electricity. Similarly, trains have moved to being electric powertrains for a long time, whether the electricity comes from an overhead wire, an onboard diesel generator or a hydrogen fuel cell.

Certainly, while electric vehicles have a promising future and well-established credential for being an excellent alternative technology pathway, the different choices we make in terms of charging infrastructure, source of electricity and energy storage technologies bear different environmental challenges.

The big win for electric vehicles is the combination with the decarbonisation of electricity and the ability to significantly increase the proportion of electricity from renewable sources in our energy mix. Over time we may get to the point, where electric vehicles are primarily powered by onboard solar voltaic panels, after all the average daily mileage of a car is in the order of just 25  miles, another exciting technology trend co-located with the introduction of electric vehicles.

However, there are choices we need to carefully consider to avoid negating the benefits an electric vehicle brings. Electricity is a commodity expected to be available everywhere at all times. But there is a difference whether one installs millions of EV charging points at home, or whether one installs a few thousand charging assets with high utilisation for the provision of the national travel demand.

And what about the mountain of batteries you can expect from electric cars? There is nowhere near enough recycling capacity as the uptake of electric vehicles gains momentum. Do we need super large automotive batteries to reduce range anxiety or should we opt for a more sophisticated infrastructure approach that perhaps could half the anticipated demand on battery production? It makes you wonder whether electric vehicles are heading for an environmental disaster.

The bottom line is, we are still discovering how best to migrate to electric vehicles and without a doubt electric vehicles can be very green. How green they will be, will really depend on the choices we make going forward.

While today’s electric vehicles are a great start towards cleaner transport, we need to meticulously consider next steps on a global scale.

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Gemserv’s Clean Transport team provide a comprehensive service that meets your needs mastering the complex transition to EVs. To get in touch with one of the team, please email [email protected] or visit https://www.gemserv.com/capabilities/clean-transport/ .