John is an experienced freelance content writer with an eclectic employment history.
Electric vehicles, while far from perfect, are one of our most promising ways of cutting down the harmful impact we have on our environment. Personal vehicles account for a substantial portion of the global-warming gasses we produce (as much as a fifth of the United States output, for example), and is also one of the most actionable things an individual can do to make a difference in our fight against human-made climate change.
In this post we’re going to take a look at the considerations of moving to electric, including taking into account the criticisms often levied against them.
The very concept of global warming has become a controversial one in recent years, with much back and forth over the legitimacy of the claims that we—humans—have had a significant impact on it.
What we can say for certain is that the average temperature of our climate has undergone a sharp rise over the last century or so that is well outside the natural shifts in temperature over the course of history. While the argument can be made that correlation is not causation, it is hard to ignore the fact that this sharp hike in global temperatures directly corresponds to industrial growth and the use of combustion engines.
It is also worth noting that, while global warming sceptics will argue that climate change is natural and humans have not made a significant impact on it, few are prepared to deny that the gasses produced by things like combustion engine vehicles are harmful to our environment to some degree. If we can agree on that, the drive to move away from these harmful processes becomes unobjectionable—even if the impact is not as significant as scientists claim, there is some impact, and it is not good.
Are Electric Vehicles Better?
One of the most common objections to the notion that we should move to electric vehicles is that, often times, the electric that powers those vehicles comes from fossil fuel-based power plants. After all, if your electric car is getting its charge from a coal power plant, is there any difference from a climate change perspective? It’s all burning fossil fuels.
Of course, this is true in many cases. If an electric car is charged at a charging point that is getting power from a fossil fuel power plant, we are merely shifting the source of the damaging gasses from the car itself to some remote power plant.
It is important to remember that we are looking at things from an individual perspective. The push to move from fossil fuel to renewable energy on a regional, national, and international level is one we should all be calling for, but in the meantime, moving to electric vehicles is a more attainable change that many individuals and families can make.
Another way to look at it is this; if you have an electric car and the power you charge it with is coming from a coal power plant, it’s not much better for the environment. But, if your local power shifts to greener energy—as many are—you will be suddenly be helping to cut down the harmful emissions we produce without ever having to do anything extra. If, on the other hand, you have a combustion engine vehicle, you will be contributing to those harmful gasses no matter how green your regional power supply is.
The Environmental Cost of EV Creation
Even when electric vehicles are being charged through green energy (solar EV chargers are growing in popularity, for instance), there is the matter of the environmental cost of creating an electric vehicle.
In this respect, electric vehicles would appear to be worse than their combustion engine counterparts, in particular because the process of mining raw materials for the vehicle’s batteries is more harmful to the environment than the manufacturing process of a traditional vehicle.
What is important to remember here is that the manufacturing process for any given vehicle only happens once. Electric vehicles may be more harmful to the environment at the production stage, but once they are made, their damage is done. Combustion engine vehicles will continue to harm the environment every time they are used.
Additionally, the more electric vehicles there are, the more feasible the prospect of recycling some of the damaging materials that are used in their construction, such as the rare earth elements needed for the batteries.
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Unfortunately, there is no denying that electric vehicles are a little pricey compared to their far more mature combustion counterparts. This is an unavoidable reality of new technology. However, another reality is that the more electric vehicles are in demand, the cheaper they will become.
As the underlying technologies mature and the manufacturing processes are refined, the cost of electric vehicles will continue to come down. And, as more electric vehicles are bought, the second hand market for electric vehicles will also grow.
If electric vehicles are well out of your price range, you are, unfortunately, consigned to playing the waiting game while the people who can afford them go out and buy them, bringing the price down as they do.
At the time of writing, there are already electric vehicles on the market that are comparable in price to the average SUV. A little pricey, considering these electric vehicles are small cars, but getting there.
On a more positive note, there are plenty of upsides to owning an electric vehicle beyond the warm and fuzzy feeling you get from knowing you are helping to reduce the damage our society does to the environment. One of the biggest of those positives is charging.
With an electric vehicle, you can charge your car at home, not only saving you on regular trips to the gas station, but also meaning you have more control over where your power comes from. We don’t just mean in the sense that you can change energy providers (though that is certainly an option) but in the sense that you can go greener at home.
If you have solar panels installed in your home, you could theoretically charge your vehicle on purely green energy (depending on your power production and usage, of course). There are also solar charging stations available, allowing you to charge your car with solar power even if you don’t have solar installed already.
How to Charge an Electric Vehicle with Solar Power
Electric vehicles are far from a perfect solution to the problem of harmful gasses being generated by vehicles. They generate plenty of harmful gasses themselves during the manufacturing process, they often rely on fossil fuel power plants to be charged, and they are too expensive for many people.
Still, even with all those negatives, they are still the best prospect we have in this fight, and they are certainly better than the status quo.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 John Bullock