Are electric cars eco-friendly?
One of the biggest causes of environmental pollution are, unsurprisingly, carbon emissions from millions and millions of cars on our roads (Source: DEFRA). Before we had kids, the Hubby and I used to rely solely on public transport but nowadays we simply can’t imagine our life without the car. It’s become a life saver on days when a big grocery shopping needs to be done or on those cold wintry or rainy days when the boys need to be dropped off to nursery and school, and walking 20 minutes with the baby in a buggy, a toddler in tow and holding multiple school and lunch bags fills you with dread as you hold onto an umbrella! (I really feel for and salute those people without a car on those days!) But every time we drive, I worry about our impact on pollution and global warming. Working in central London I see lots of charging points for electric vehicles (also referred to as plug-in vehicles or EVs) and I’ve been wondering lately whether this should be our next big eco-friendly switch when we’re ready to buy our new car.
But what benefits do electric cars actually offer? And are electric vehicles really more eco-friendly? Let’s start by looking at challenges that electric vehicles pose:
- Affordability – being a fairly new invention, electric vehicles are still more expensive than conventional cars. However, on the flip side you could argue that the cheaper running costs can compensate for the initial high expense.
- More charging points will be required to deal with the demand as more of us drive EVs. There’s already around new companies entering that market, such as the NewMotion chargepoints and there’s bound to be more springing up soon.
- Pressure on the National Grid. Experts in this field claim the pressure would be expected during peak hours as cars are left to charge overnight. Charging an EV is equivalent to providing three days of electricity to a typical house (Source: Guardian) and there’s already pressure on the grid with over 100,000 EVs and 12,000 charging points in the UK.
- Long refuelling time. EVs can take hours to fully refuel so you need to plan your journeys, especially longer ones, much more carefully as you can’t simply stop at a petrol station to tank up.
- Limited range. Current models offer a fairly limited range of around 80-100 miles, meaning that the EV will need to be fully recharged afterwards which, as mentioned earlier, can take hours.
- Lack of consumer choice. Even though a number of manufacturers offer EVs, the choice is still pretty narrow.
Some positive aspects about electric vehicles include:
- Recharge points at home. How convenient is that? Imagine no more trips to the petrol station!
- Reduced maintenance costs – because EVs don’t have exhaust systems, the cost of regular maintenance (oil changes, etc.) is minimised.
- Government’s financial support. To help out with the high purchase costs, the UK Government offers early adopters a Plug-in Vehicle Grant of up to 35% of the cost of electric and hybrid vehicles. There’s also funding from OLEV (The Office for Low Emission Vehicles) to install a homecharger for your plug-in vehicle through the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme.
- Reduction of carbon emissions which lead to climate change. Powering your EV with electricity generated through renewable sources will reduce those emissions even further.
So are electric vehicles more eco-friendly?
Greenpeace’s stance is that they are contributing to cleaner air but other experts suggest that it all depends on two factors: firstly, “how electric vehicles, and particularly their batteries, are manufactured, and also how the electricity which powers these EVs is generated” (source: BBC).
With more than 2 million electric vehicles already on our roads globally and a further 138 million expected by 2030 if “countries meet the Paris climate deal’s goal of avoiding dangerous temperature rises” (source: Guardian), electric cars are definitely here to stay. However, experts claim the switchover process will take considerable amount of time (source: BBC).
As for us – well, since we’re getting more and more aware of the impact that our sometimes-excessive driving habits have on the planet, I think it’s only reasonable that we should at least look into buying an EV. However, it wouldn’t be for another couple of years when we’re ready to change cars so it’ll be interesting to see how the electric car industry and the wider energy market changes.