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This urges us to look for alternatives as we cannot solely rely on EVs to meet sustainable goals. If we do so, we will pollut

Using fossil fuels – coal, oil, and natural gas undoubtedly lead to a significant cumulative greenhouse gas emission. In the long run, they cause extreme environmental externalities, including ocean acidification, oil spills, weather changes, etc.

Now that it has already made a hugely devastating impact on the earth’s atmosphere, countries are looking forward to switching the mode of transport. And the best option at this time, due to the efficient battery and technology, is Electric Vehicle.

According to Elsevier, “EVs could reduce CO2 emission by 14–100% in 2050 when electricity is significantly generated from renewables”. However, this prediction runs on a few conditions:  [1]

  • The use of an efficient and lesser number of batteries
  • Affordable investments
  • Money-saving initiatives (Scrapping Policy)
  • Availability of rare metals
  • Reduced Emission in the production stage ( Mining)

We don’t see EVs fulfilling these conditions, so their sustainability is still a question mark.

Let us see how

A. Investment and policies – Currently, India has just seven automated fitness test centers and two authorized scrappage centers, which is inadequate to cater to the market. Plus, the responsibility for tariffs rests with the state DISCOM, making it difficult to bring about uniformity.

b. Rare Metal Availability – EV uses a range of rare metals, including Cobalt, lithium, and nickel. But, they are exposed to a range of supply chain risks because their production and processing are geographically concentrated and dominated by geopolitical rivalry, supply chain, policy stability, state contract alteration, etc.

c. Emission in the production stage: Producing a 75-kilowatt-hour battery for a Tesla Model 3 would result in the Emission of 4,500 kilograms of C02. That’s the emissions equivalent to driving a gas-powered sedan for 1.4 years, at an average distance of 12,000 miles.

To add up to this comes the second step, which depends solely upon mining tones of raw materials. Estimates suggest that 150kg of CO2 is released for every 1 kilowatt hour (kWh) battery capacity. So, at this point, electric cars seem worse than conventional fossil fuels. [2]

d. Efficiency of Batteries: Difficult to recycle due to their large size. They are vulnerable to explosions and often gather into scarps and waste. A lot of metals are wasted in the smelting process.

Lead acid batteries have a 100% recycling rate in the U.S but developing states don’t have an active recycling process. The basic recycling process will use smelting at a very high temp – making it counteractive to the environmental goals.

And therefore, despite the prevalent electric vehicle movement, we must look for potential alternatives for an environmentally sustainable transport system.

Let us list these alternatives:

1. The natural gas vehicle: a responsible way to travel

Natural gas is considered a cleaner gas as it produces low emissions. This appears to be an ecological alternative to electric vehicles as the primary energy doesn’t require any particular transformation, as in the case of rare metals and EV batteries.

Most importantly, Natural gas uses lesser toxic batteries with an easy recycling process. Here, the recycling process leads to lesser wastage as it produces plastic and lead to being reused again.

The distribution of Natural gas is also ensured by several pipes, which limit indirect pollution.

Most importantly, it is better than EV due to the following reason.

  • Because EV batteries require a mix of metals to be extracted and refined, it takes more energy than the common lead-acid batteries used in gasoline cars to help start the engine.
  • How much CO2 is emitted in the production depends on multiple factors – where the lithium-ion battery is made — how the electricity powering the factory is generated — according to Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist and director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research think tank.

For example, Producing a 75-kilowatt-hour battery for a Tesla Model 3, considered on the larger end of batteries for electric vehicles, would result in the Emission of 4,500 kilograms of CO2 if made at Tesla’s battery factory in Nevada. That’s the emissions equivalent to driving a gas-powered sedan for 1.4 years, at a yearly average distance of 12,000 miles,  In this case, natural gas will be a suitable alternative.

2. Cleaner Fuels (Hydrogen)

While there have been arguments about hydrogen fuel densely packing the energy, they can cover greater distances. While most electric vehicles go up to only 100 miles on one charge, hydrogen fuel-based vehicles can cover 300 miles in one go.

The best part about these cleaner fuels is that they can be augmented with advanced Technologies.

  • The electrolysis process through which hydrogen is extracted can be made more efficient.
  • new methods of producing hydrogen are being developed, such as the proton exchange membrane, which, according to scientists, might get to an 86% efficiency
  • It doesn’t depend upon an incentivization-based scrapping policy but can be used in existing vehicles.
  • We can reduce the carbon emission in the manufacturing process by adjusting the reaction time.

3. Bio Fuels

Here, the CO2 released in the exhaust is equivalent to the C02 trapped by the mechanizing Plant during the manufacturing process.

Due to their organic nature, it is interesting to note that Biofuels are commonly used in homes and can be the best alternative to EVs.

Having a good autonomy of 500-700 KM, it generates no fine particles making it far more sustainable than EVs that use mining(lead To 6-7% GHG emission) and produces lithium batteries. [3]

Ending Note

While influencers and activists keep creating excessive hype over Electric vehicles, we must understand that electricity will be on the verge of exhaustion in many countries.

According to Toyota President Akio Toyoda, Japan would run out of electricity in the Summer if all cars were running on electricity. [4]

This urges us to look for alternatives as we cannot solely rely on EVs to meet sustainable goals. If we do so, we will pollute the environment in many ways, including mining, water scarcity, electricity exhaustion, etc.

Therefore, before we start with the mass scaling of EVs, it’s time to look for more accessible alternatives and customize them with the help of technologies to meet the environmental needs.