One of the most significant issues with vehicles that run on fossil fuels is their emissions into the environment. Of course, not only is this a massive contributor to global warming, but it is also a big factor in air pollution. By taking more of these vehicles off the roads and replacing them with EVs, the air will be cleaner and healthier for people to breathe.
Are Electric Vehicles Better for the Environment?
The benefits of electric vehicles on the environment have been widely debated in recent years. Technology and sustainability intersect, and with evolving technology and a growing need for sustainable products, this is bound to become an even more common debate.
There are a few things to take into consideration when thinking about whether EVs are more environmentally friendly than vehicles powered by fossil fuels.
How the Electricity Is Generated
If an electric car is charged on an average U.S. grid powered by fossil fuels and renewable energy sources, then there's no doubt that they are more environmentally friendly.
The Times gives an example of an all-electric Chevrolet Bolt versus a new gas-fueled Toyota Camry. The Bolt, on average, will produce 189 grams of carbon dioxide per mile driven over its lifetime; the Camry produces around 385 grams of carbon dioxide under the same circumstances.
However, if the Bolt is charged in an area like the Midwest, which has an electricity grid almost entirely powered by coal, these benefits are mitigated somewhat. In these instances, a hybrid car would be a better alternative. The solution is to clean up the electricity grid, which will, in turn, drop vehicle carbon emissions.
Problematic Raw Materials
The biggest concern when it comes to electric vehicles is the batteries and, specifically, what goes into producing them. Cobalt, lithium, and other raw materials are needed to power the batteries in EVs, and these have been linked to several environmental and human rights concerns at extraction.
Cobalt, in particular, is an issue. Its extraction leaves behind toxic slags and tailings that are liable to leach into the surrounding environment. The extraction method of smelting also releases harmful air pollutants, like sulfur dioxide.
Most of these raw materials are extracted in countries with poor human rights records and where there is little to no regulation on the conditions of workers. Children and other workers often face extensive work hours without protection from harmful chemicals.
While the technology for batteries powered by different ingredients is ongoing, companies must work on making mines more environmentally friendly and ensuring better conditions for their workers.
Developments in the Recycling of Batteries
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