There is a lot of discussion on the benefits of electric cars versus fossil fuel cars. But are electric vehicles so climate-friendly? In this blog post, the Norvergence writer puts a spotlight on the darker side of the story.

Electric vehicles have been touted as one of the many solutions to fighting climate change and phasing out climate harming fossil fuel-based transportation around the world. Many developed and developing countries around the world have announced their ambitious plans to shift their entire transportation fleet to electric.

Singapore has recently announced its plans to phase out ICE vehicles by 2040. In 2017, Indian Transport Minister Mr. Nitin Gadkari had announced plans to switch country’s entire fleet to electric by 2030, which was further diluted by 70%, the reasons being job losses and industry push back. UK and France have announced plans to phase out ICE vehicles by 2040.

The question here is, how green are the electric vehicles? Do we know the carbon footprint of an electric vehicle? Are we considering the lost opportunity from fossil fuel-based transportation infrastructure already in place? Have we considered the additional clean energy requirements for electric vehicles or simply going to let do with coal and gas-based generation for electric vehicles.

What are the environmental impacts of battery manufacturing and disposal, new manufacturing capacity and operations, scrappage of old fossil fuel vehicles and manufacturing facilities, and dismantling of oil and gas facilities, refineries, etc.? Are we taking into consideration, the lost efficiency and increased transportation needs due to a low range EV versus petrol/diesel based transportation? Are we considering EV subsidies generated lost opportunity that would have been used for phasing out fossil fuel or implement tighter emission standards?

electric vehicles

Without these above questions answered we are simply looking at the clean exhaust pipe of an electric vehicle assuming zero responsibility for the above areas. If EVs are the best alternative to fossil fuel-based transportation in our fight against climate change, then we must find out the net environmental impact of national and global EV transition to compare with existing transportation systems.

Electric vehicle transition without a proper Blockchain-based digital system to understand its power source is like burning coal instead of petrol/diesel while the coal is burnt at a different place. In this case, we are also wasting lots of coal-based generation during transmission, distribution, and usage (as per EV efficiency). For a petrol/diesel based transportation system, we are wasting zero oil/gas during transportation while also being able to switch to cleaner and better alternatives. Are we in an EV frenzy getting swayed by the clean-looking EV and hoping for the environmental impact of transportation to reduce through EV based transportation?

To have a fair assessment, let us look at each of the EV transition areas separately and thoroughly. We will use our analysis to conclude the following question-

How much extra carbon (only Co2) will be mitigated through India’s transition to Electric Vehicles by 2030? The following sub-areas are being investigated in our analysis

  1. Do we have a system in place to know the power source of an EV charger? Larger Power Plants turn fossil fuel more efficiently than numerous smaller ICE vehicles and thus a fossil fuel-powered EV transportation fleet may still be greener compared to the ICE vehicle transportation fleet.
  2. Are we taking into account the carbon footprint of the EV supply chain?
  3. Are we taking into account the remaining life of phased out ICE vehicles, thereby additional EV carbon footprint vs. equivalent phased out ICE vehicles’ carbon footprint?
  4. Can we only ban new ICE vehicles manufacturing and sells vs. scrapping all ICE vehicles having their remaining life?
  5. What about the decreased efficiency of EV and equivalent increase in transportation-based carbon footprint?
  6. Subsidy opportunity loss for public transportation, clean emission technology vs. subsidy disbursed for EV transition.
  7. What about the manufacturing facilities for ICE vehicles, their carbon footprint vs. newer carbon footprint of EV and battery manufacturing facilities.

Without analyzing the above areas, I can’t answer the question I have asked myself in the subject of these articles i.e. Electric vehicles; Are they really carbon neutral? In our upcoming articles, we will discuss the above issues in separate and great detail and will use a systems thinking approach to arrive at a cumulative answer to our question. The answers to the above areas will require us to study the end to end value chain of EV and ICE vehicle ecosystem. We will also discuss how to develop Blockchain-based peer to peer energy exchanges to incentivize EV owners, Vehicle-to-Grid and Grid-to-Vehicle charging beneficiaries, etc. Till then, let’s choose to buy EVs with a guaranteed source of clean energy, a decarbonized supply chain, and sustainable manufacturing policies.