Electric mobility: Cleaner than gasoline and diesel
Electric cars emit far less CO2 during their production and life cycle compared to conventional models using internal combustion engines.
During their motion, electric cars produce zero emissions. On the contrary, cars with internal combustion engines or hybrids may emit from 20 to a few hundred grams of CO2/km, as well as carbon monoxide, NoX, particulates etc.
However, this fact is not enough to characterize electric cars as “clean”. The electric power they consume has a significant environmental footprint concerning its production, since renewables still have just a small share. In 2016 they were at 24% globally, including hydro.
Concurrently, electric cars require more energy during their production, despite the fact that they have fewer moving parts. This is because of their batteries that are needed to store power and they are mainly produced in countries with low renewables penetration in their grid.
A comparison with multiple parameters
In order to have a complete view about the total CO2 emitted during a car’s life cycle and compare how clean is in fact an electric car compared to a conventional one, we must examine a lot of information: In which country it was produced, the sources of the energy used, in which country it is driven and energy sources there, whether it can be recycled etc.
This difficult task was realized by the European organization “Transport & Environment”, which created an online tool to compare the CO2 footprint for electric cars compared to conventional ones using gasoline and diesel engines.
All possible criteria have been included in the study, such as the amount of CO2 emitted during power production or fuel combustion, as well as carbon’s effect in mining resources for batteries or a power plant.
Electric mobility has the solution
The study’s findings are really impressive and in favor of electric cars. In Europe, electric cars emit on average almost 3 times less CO2 than gasoline or diesel cars during their life cycles.
In the worst case, an electric car with a battery made in China that is driven in Poland still emits 22% less CO2 than diesel and 28% less than gasoline. In the best case, an electric car with a battery made in Sweden and driven in Sweden can emit 80% less CO2 than the diesel and 81% less than gasoline. It also seems that electric cars will reduce CO2 emissions by a factor of four by 2030 thanks to the fact that the EU’s power grid depends more and more on renewables.
We should note that Greece is among the top 9 countries globally that produce more than 20% of their power using photovoltaics and wind turbines, according to the study Renewables 2019 Global Status Report.
The future lies in hydrogen cells
The future of cars is definitely electric mobility and the transition of the sector to the age of zero emissions traveling.
This transition may not be easy and will take time, however everything points to car companies moving in the last stretch, solving problems concerning autonomy and battery charging. On the other hand, battery companies underline that within the next 3 or 4 years there will be batteries that will last longer and will be at least 50% lighter than current ones.
Already, China made great strides before the pandemic in electric mobility and it seems that after the end it will enter growth again.
Many heads of car companies believe that the future of electric mobility lies in another kind of electric car, the one that uses hydrogen. Hydrogen cell cars move using the energy produced within the vehicle itself.
At this point we should not forget Opel’s research from 2000 concerning fuel cell technology. This technology was first applied formally to the Zafira. Fuel cells supplied power to a three-phase asynchronous engine with 75HP and 251 Nm. A backup battery covered higher demand for power. In 2001 a fleet of 20 models was tried by customers. It was realized that the model should have more HP and thus it was increased to 82 HP and a top speed of 160km/h. In the 2004 Fuel Cell Marathon, two vehicles using the HydroGen3 technology covered almost 10,000 km across Europe, from Norway to Lisbon in Portugal, showing that all problems can be surpassed even in large distances.
Fuel cell technology also has zero emissions (like pure electric mobility). The only emissions are water vapors from the exhaust. The fuel cells include hundreds of individual cell arrays where hydrogen reacts with the oxygen in the air to support an environmentally friendly motion. There is no combustion, only an electrochemical reaction that produces electricity. Thus, power is produced to move the car.
Today, electric cars use a battery and store energy in lithium batteries. This will not take place in hydrogen cell technology. Engineers from car companies mention that the energy/weight ratio of hydrogen is better compared to lithium batteries, making these cars better suited for long travel and large autonomy.
On the other hand, the supplying of hydrogen cell cars is easier compared to charging a battery, since it only takes a few minutes to fill up. This is key because when electric mobility reaches high levels and a driver needs to charge its battery during a trip but has another car in front, he will have to wait for his turn, that is 30 minutes, before he takes an equal amount of time to charge. This means a large delay for the journey’s completion.