In accordance with the EU’s objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, many European countries have committed to phasing out the sale of gasoline and diesel cars by 2040. Leading this trend are Norway who have particularly ambitious goals of selling only zero-emission cars, commercial vehicles and urban buses from 2025. As such targets are put into place and the uptake of electric vehicles increases, understanding the differences between electric and gasoline cars has never been more important.
How do electric cars work?
Electric vehicles have a rechargeable battery that stores electricity when charged. Typically, the average battery life of an electric car lasts for approximately 100 miles which is relatively low compared to petrol cars which can last up to 400 miles on a full tank of petrol.
To understand how electric cars work, the three different types of electrical vehicle must be understood:
- Plug-in electric: this type of car runs solely on electricity that is obtained from charging stations.
- Plug-in hybrid: this car is predominantly electric but does have a fuel engine, offering the option to use petrol or diesel as required.
- Hybrid- electric: this car runs mainly on fuel but does have a battery. Unlike other electric vehicles, hybrid-electric cars cannot be plugged into charging points but instead get power from petrol and diesel only.
How much do electric cars benefit the environment?
The main reason that electric cars have increased in popularity is due to the environmental benefits that that they offer. Unlike gas cars, they produce far fewer carbon emissions into the atmosphere. In fact, over the course of a year, one electric car alone can save an average of 1.5 million grams of CO2.
Electric vehicles also reduce air pollution, creating a cleaner and less harmful environment during usage. As more and more people start using electric cars the benefits that this reduction in pollution brings to the environment will become more noticeable.
It is important to note that electric vehicles aren’t completely environmentally friendly. As lithium ion batteries are integral to the manufacture of electric cars, the emissions that they create throughout the production process are often higher than the emissions caused by standard fuel cars. Over a third of the lifetime CO2 emissions of an electric car are generated from the energy used to manufacture the car itself. Whilst this is not insignificant, as technology advances and the manufacturing of batteries becomes more efficient, it is likely that emissions will reduce over time.
Another concern with batteries is the way in which they are disposed of. Chemicals from batteries can leak if disposed of incorrectly and this can have a detrimental effect on the natural environment if necessary precautions are not taken. Again, there is scope for improvement in this area as the reusing and recycling of batteries becomes more commonplace.
However, even with these concerns considered electric cars remain a significantly more environmentally friendly mode of transport due to reduced emissions over the car’s lifetime.
Electric cars vs gas cars
What does the future look like for electric vehicles?
The shift towards electric cars is happening as environmental policies and government regulations increasingly encourage car owners to move away from gas vehicles. As society becomes more eco-conscious, individuals are turning to greener alternatives as part of a more sustainable lifestyle. One key way of achieving this is by owning an electric car. More and more countries are pledging to move entirely towards electric car production and so this, inevitably, will accelerate the trend. We are, arguably, on the cusp of the next great industrial revolution.
However, the implementation of this new technology hasn’t been seamless as the infrastructure to support electrical vehicles is currently lacking. A shortage of charging stations has made ownership of electric cars inaccessible to many.
The European Commission should match its level of ambition for rolling out infrastructure across the EU with its ambition for reducing CO2 emissions from vehicles. It is quite simple: the higher the climate targets become, the higher targets for charging points and refuelling stations should be. Unfortunately, we still see a mismatch between these two elements at EU level,– Eric-Mark Huitema, ACEA’s Director General warned.
Despite this, the future of electric vehicles looks promising. As we draw closer to European targets, manufacturing processes, supporting infrastructure and advances in technology will become even more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly for the future.