Home » Will Switching To Electric Vehicles Put An End To The Climate Crisis?

Will Switching To Electric Vehicles Put An End To The Climate Crisis?

by Simran Dolwani

Electric vehicles (EVs) have significant emission benefits over conventional ones. They are known to be the eco-friendly solution to the polluted environment. But one of the famous British actors, Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr Bean), denies this fact. 

In an interview with the Guardian, he stated that EVs are not the environmentally friendly solution as it is claimed to be. He also said these vehicles require huge amounts of energy for manufacturing. Further, he added that he felt duped by electric vehicles and thinks conventional ones are better than EVs. 

MailOnline looked at the EVs’ issues and talked to some experts to know whether Mr Rowan’s statements are true or not.

What Are Electric Vehicles?

Electric vehicles are either fully or partially powered by one or more electric motors. These motors extract electricity from the battery for propulsion and can be charged by external sources. The different types of EVs based on the system architecture are fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs), hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). EVs are efficient, provide better performance and are easy to operate. 

Manufacturing Of Electric Vehicles

The manufacturing process of electric vehicles includes several stages, from designing to quality checking. In the designing phase, the designers create the body structure. And in the manufacturing stage, batteries, electric motors, charging systems and other electrical components are produced. After this, the body assembly phase comes. This includes joining the structural and electrical components of the vehicle. The vehicle is completely produced in this stage. The final stage is the testing and quality check stage. This phase involves the inspection of the vehicle. Various tests are conducted to check the safety and durability of the vehicle. After inspection, EVs are sent to customers and dealerships. 

Image Credits: Pixabay 

Electrical Vehicles vs Conventional Vehicles

Electric vehicles have multiple advantages over conventional vehicles (gas cars). The major difference between the two is that gas cars run on petrol, gasoline and diesel and have internal combustion engines (ICE), while EVs require batteries and electric motors for propulsion. During the manufacturing of EVs, greenhouse gas emissions are higher due to the production of lithium batteries. Using this fact as a claim, Mr Atkinson said that gas cars produce less emissions and are much better than EVs. 

But David Howey, a professor of engineering science at the University of Oxford, England, was not in favour of Mr Atkinson’s statement. He said that the entire lifecycle emissions of both types of vehicles must be compared to examine their environmental credentials. Lifecycle emissions are produced during a vehicle’s life, from manufacturing to dumping in the junkyard. Professor Howey cited many studies to prove his statement. One of them was the 2021 study conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation, an advocacy and research group. The study showed that the lifecycle emissions of EVs are 66 to 69 per cent lower than that of gas vehicles. 

Further, Mr Atkinson claimed that as  EVs are powered by lithium-ion batteries (rechargeable batteries), they require many rare earth metals and high energy for production. Therefore, synthetic or hydrogen fuels can be used instead of EVs. However, this statement was also opposed. “Most of Atkinson’s central arguments are ‘wrong’ and ‘questionable from a science perspective,” said Dr Florian Knobloch, a Fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance. He added that EVs produce lower emissions and their batteries are more efficient for the vehicle’s motion compared with a gasoline tank. Also, synthetic and hydrogen fuels are not good options as they can result in high energy use and emissions. 

Professor Howey also disagreed with the statement that lithium-ion batteries contain rare earth metals. “It’s a strange thing to say in relation to lithium-ion batteries since they don’t have rare-earth elements in them. A key rare earth for EVs is neodymium, which is used in the magnets in some types of electric motor; however, it is possible to make electric motors without rare earths,” he said. 

Image Credits: Pexel 

In addition to this, Tom Stacey, an automotive industry expert at Anglia Ruskin University’s School of Economics, England, stated that EV batteries do not contain rare earth metals instead they have cobalt, manganese, lithium, nickel and aluminium. “The rare earths are a collection of non-abundant metals, of which there are some in the magnets of many electric motors, but none in the batteries of EVs,” he said. 

One more advantage of having EVs rather than gas cars is their on-road performance. EVs provide higher acceleration and speed, offer better handling and agility, are more energy-efficient, need recharging instead of fueling and produce less noise. On the other hand, gas cars take time to get accelerated, have varied handling and agility depending upon design and weight, are less energy-efficient and produce more noise as compared to EVs. 

The Drawbacks

Just like other emerging technologies, Electric vehicles come with certain drawbacks too. As EVs run on batteries, there are concerns about running out of charge in the middle of the journeys. Automobile engineers are still working to combat this issue. Another drawback associated with EVs is tyre wear which causes rubber particle pollution. The EVs’ tyres press harder against the road due to the heavy weight of the lithium-ion batteries. Because of this, tiny rubber particles spread in the atmosphere which become invisible to the naked eye and can enter the lungs. This increases the level of rubber particle pollution. 

“There’s still a bit of work to do’ to make lithium-ion batteries greener, which appears to be Atkinson’s main issue. Manufacturing of EV batteries does use resources and does cause pollution – and we need to work to bring that further down,” said Anders Hammer Strømman, a professor of the Industrial Ecology Programme at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “The production footprint of electric vehicles are today generally higher than conventional cars, but it has come down over the years. But over the lifetime – and especially in the areas where there’s a low carbon footprint from the electricity generation – you will have a good benefit from switching to electric vehicles.”

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