Electric vehicles are not a new invention. They were ideated in the 1800s and have evolved to the extent that many of our transport options today are electricity-based. The newer, more relevant aspect of electric vehicles today is their availability as a personal transport option, an alternative to fossil fuel-based cars and bikes.
One of the reasons for the increasing support for this shift from non-renewable fuel-powered vehicles towards electric motors is that the latter is deemed to be better for the environment in more ways than one. But is that really the case? What makes electric vehicles better? Should we ditch our present vehicles and get an electric variant instead?
Electric Vehicles and Their Types
Electric vehicles are also referred to as EVs. Instead of the traditional combustion engine, EVs use an electric motor. To charge these motors and get the vehicle running, the vehicles need to be plugged into an electrical charging port.
There are three main types of electric vehicles one should know about. These are Battery EVs, Hybrid EVs, and Plug-in Hybrid EVs. BEVs are solely electric motor vehicles that use a battery pack to store the electrical energy and power the vehicle.
Hybrid EVs are non-plugin variants, as opposed to plug-in hybrids. Alongside an electric motor, HEVs also have an internal combustion engine. These variants need not be plugged in for charging as the process is accomplished by the internal combustion engine (ICE), the wheel motion, or both combined. PHEVs on the other hand, come with an ICE as well, but can also be charged by plugging them into an electric source. The Range Extender EV is a variant that is fitted with a fuel-powered generator and uses this in case the battery is low.
The first electric cars are said to have been made in the 1800s, but their commercial production did not start till the early 1900s. The initial appeal of the electric motor may have been more than saving on fuel. These cars were less polluting and cleaner, the same reasons that their wider production is being pushed for now. However, as newer and easier alternatives started springing up by the 1920s, innovations in personal use EVs started to fall back.
What makes them better than fuel-based vehicles?
Countries around the world are voicing their commitments to phasing out fossil fuel-powered vehicles in favor of electric vehicles. What advantages do EVs have over contemporary petrol or diesel cars? How are they better for the environment?
One of the most obvious advantages that EVs have over fossil fuels vehicles is that they use electricity instead of fossil fuels. Fuels that go into powering present-day cars are one of the leading causes of global warming. This is not limited to the usage of petrol or diesel in motors, but the ways they add to the environmental damage start at their extraction, transport, and other peripheral activities related to it. Burning fossil fuels releases gases such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and soot (particulate matter) which adds to air pollution and increases health risks, especially respiratory disorders. Additionally, fossil fuels are also non-renewable, and the human quest for extracting more is starting to exhibit consequences.
EVs are an alternative that uses relatively lesser fossil fuels and emits lesser as well. Provided that more efforts towards setting up infrastructure that accommodates support for EVs, such as charging stations, maintenance, etc. are developed, EVs may help cut back the consumption and pollution cycle maintained by combustion motor vehicles.
Should we switch now?
The availability of EVs today has been extended to the common people in most regions around the world, be it in the form of four-wheeler personal vehicles, or smart scooters. It is not only the environmentally conscious who are being presented with the options of electric vehicles. Instead, EVs are being spruced up to appeal to the technologically progressive as well as those who are looking for better performance from their personal vehicles. Is the easy availability of EVs, coupled with concern for the planet, reason enough to ditch your present vehicle right now and get yourself a clean energy alternative?
Maybe not so soon. As with all good things, EVs also come with some disadvantages that we are yet to address. While they are certainly an improvement over fossil fuel-powered vehicles as far as emissions are concerned, EVs are another step towards increasing car reliability. This is in the times when we would benefit much more from reducing dependency on personal transport vehicles, especially in urban areas.
Another aspect of EVs that may be a cause for concern is their production. Minerals such as cobalt, copper, and lithium are essential components of electric vehicles. While the future may look different, present-day EV production contributes to over a third of their lifetime emissions. Furthermore, the extraction of these minerals from the earth may contribute to land degradation as well as upset ecosystems, and increase the risk of natural disasters.
Given these negatives, it may not be the best idea to scrap your current vehicles right away in favour of a brand new EV, especially if the environmental costs associated with personal vehicles are your primary concerns. Most car enthusiasts will look at the calculations that suggest the lifetime cost of an EV tends to be lower than your regular vehicle, but it is essential to consider the fact that the costs of EVs right now are significantly higher, especially in comparison to traditional alternatives.
Buying a new EV right away, especially after having to scrap your old vehicle, may not be the best decision. On the other hand, if you are not replacing a vehicle but buying a new one, an EV is the better option. You can take another step towards being environmentally responsible, and consider buying a second-hand EV.
Electric vehicles are viable as an alternative but not as a solution. An ideal situation would be where reliable public transport and sustainable urban infrastructure gradually reduce the need for a personal vehicle.
I am a simple writer who wishes to use her skill to create more awareness about the planet that offers us life.