Producing Electric Cars Pollutes More Than Traditional Ones
More or less than 50%. But the models for the entire life cycle promise major cuts, especially if we know how to recycle or reuse batteries
A new report from the UK Department of Transport has crystallized the current situation of electric mobility and its contradictions that only time and research can heal. The first point is that electric vehicles will obviously have much less impact in their life cycle than vehicles with internal combustion engines. An average electric car will save 65% of greenhouse gases compared to a petrol one. The point, however, is that the production of electric vehicles, in particular in the passage that concerns the development of batteries, currently generates more emissions than the production of traditional petrol vehicles. About 50% more in 2020. And the bulk of the weight is precisely linked to batteries, to which 67% of the life cycle emissions of this type of vehicle are attributed. In short, that reduction seen at the beginning is potential and not reality. This is a clearly momentary situation because, as The Next Web also points out, the recycling of batteries and vehicles themselves and potential applications following the disposal of electric vehicles could reverse this situation. For example, batteries could be used in industrial applications for energy storage or to replace the accumulators of electronic groups in the most varied situations. According to the Danish report, production-related emissions parity between electric and traditional vehicles will be reached in 2050. What’s more: the research also predicts that the improvement in technologies related to batteries, their manufacture and their treatment at the end of their life will lead to a 76% cut in emissions compared to the life cycle of a traditional petrol car. Hydrogen vehicles, on the other hand, a technology on which many rely but at the moment still not widespread despite the existence of several car models such as the Toyota Mirai, offer some advantages but still inferior to the electric one. Also according to the study, hydrogen would not guarantee a reduction in emissions (always considering the entire life cycle) comparable to electricity but it is equally true that the survey models lack an in-depth analysis of any growth in progress in the sector of the so-called “green hydrogen” (produced from renewables), and how they could improve the efficiency of hydrogen development. In short, the numbers are still not very solid on the subject. However, experts agree on one thing: hydrogen could be a turning point in heavy vehicles. In 2050, for example, a hydrogen-powered articulated truck could cut emissions by 73% compared to a diesel version.
Obviously the road is long and although the deadlines seem quite close — just think of the European Union which has recently banned thermal engines after 2035, as well as the United Kingdom (2030) or Canada (always 2035) or some producers that they won’t make them any more — in reality it could take decades to stop seeing petrol or diesel cars on our roads. There is always the problem of completing a fast and above all capillary charging network and the management of national infrastructures in terms of electricity needs: the question will be pachydermic, how will the current networks manage millions of electric cars being recharged at the same time? Without forgetting, of course, the need for new types of batteries and the use of ethically questionable and exhaustion materials such as lithium and cobalt.