How electric cars will help the environment

January 23, 2023

One of the major sources of air pollutant emissions is the movement of cars with internal combustion engines, the benefits of driving electric vehicles to protect and improve a healthier and greener climate are becoming increasingly apparent

In this article, we will explain some of the benefits that electric cars bring to the environment.

4 Benefits of Driving Electric Vehicles

1. Zero CO2 emissions

An electric car is the only car with zero emissions, so it produces less pollution and improves the air we breathe.

2. Less noise pollution

No combustion engine, electric cars produce less noise, improving the quality of life and reducing the stress factor that can cause noise.

3. less maintenance and use of polluting refrigerants.

Electric cars have fewer components and moving parts than internal combustion cars, so there is less maintenance and no need to use motor oils or coolants that are harmful to the environment.

4. Improved energy efficiency

Energetically, an electric car is more efficient than an internal combustion engine . While the internal combustion engine has an energy efficiency of 27%, the electric motor has about 75%.

Improvements that increase environmental benefits

There are actions that can further improve air quality and reduce pollution caused by transportation.

Finding alternatives in the battery components of electric cars, giving them a second life, or using renewable energy sources to generate electricity to power charging stations are changes that could bring even more benefits to the environment.

Less noise pollution

In addition, the electric car makes much less noise, since there is no heat engine in operation and the only thing we will hear is the light humming of the electric motor, as well as the friction of the tires against the asphalt and the air against the asphalt. body.

There is no doubt that everyday life in the city leads to a better quality of life for its residents.

Less use of polluting fluids

Another characteristic of the electric car is its low operating costs, because due to the absence of a heat engine it is possible to do without many mechanical elements and moving parts that require maintenance and replacement.

This also implies less polluting fluids such as oils or coolants, which are important elements of the traditional engine and must be disposed of according to strict protocols to reduce their impact on the environment.

Increased energy efficiency

Whereas a thermal engine is at best 50% energy efficient, an electric motor is far more efficient, capable of using up to 90% of the energy it is capable of generating.
Where the electricity comes from is of great importance when considering the environmental quality of an electric vehicle.

This is because the internal combustion engine loses energy through heat generation, friction between parts or suboptimal combustion processes. The electric motor, on the other hand, not only does without these intermediate processes, but also has regenerative systems capable of recovering energy.

Reducing emissions during production and refueling?

This point is somewhat more subtle and, above all, less obvious. And the fact is that the manufacturing process for an electric car is essentially the same as for a traditional car. The extraction of materials, their molding, machining, assembly, etc. are common to both technologies and therefore have the same impact on the environment.

As for recharging, the differences can be noticeable, but only depending on the original energy source.

In the case of heat engines, fuel is obtained by extracting oil, then refining it and finally transporting the final product to service stations. This whole process leads to significant emissions of pollutants, which cannot be neglected.

It is the same in the case of the electric car, since electricity can be obtained in different ways, many of which also pollute the environment. Let’s assume that in the case of electric cars, the pollution does not occur during the use of the vehicle, but during the production and charging process.

To reduce this polluting footprint, the so-called green recharging has been created, which consists in generating electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind or solar energy, among others. This system will undoubtedly be of great help when it comes to reducing the environmental impact of an electric car, but by no means can it be assumed to be 100% environmentally friendly.

Battery production and recycling

We end this analysis with one of the most challenging issues of the electric car from an environmental perspective: what about batteries?

Starting with the extraction and processing of the minerals needed to produce batteries, this process inevitably increases the emissions of pollutants that, according to various studies, can be twice the emissions needed for an internal combustion car . Data that the European Environment Agency bases on the use of four times the amount of copper, as well as nickel and other minerals.

Recycle, reuse or recycle – here’s how electric car batteries can live a second life
Recycle, reuse or recycle – here’s how you can extend the second life of electric car batteries.

In many cases, this is reinforced by the need to make lighter bodies and chassis to compensate for the extra weight of electric car batteries, which in many cases forces manufacturers to resort to aluminum, carbon fiber or composite materials.

Cobalt and lithium are other important battery materials. Global production of these minerals comes mostly from underdeveloped and politically unstable countries such as the Congo, creating an ideal breeding ground for speculation by investment funds and other companies.

Battery disposal, an unresolved issue

The battery life of an electric car battery is about 10 years, and the intensity and proper use of the battery can drastically reduce its capacity, which negatively affects the autonomy of the car. In any case, sooner or later the batteries will have to be replaced with other batteries, diverting them to other tasks or recycling their components.

In the first case, there are already recycling programs for electric car batteries, which are no longer used to cover the car’s needs, but to meet other needs.

For example, Audi uses a stationary storage system consisting of 700 interconnected batteries at its plant in Ingolstadt, Germany. The combination of old and new batteries makes it possible to store plant-generated solar and wind energy, which is then used to generate electricity.
Electric car batteries are usually placed on the floor of the car, and recycling still requires improvements.

The Etecnic reuses used batteries to store photovoltaic energy generated at service stations . It is also possible to supply power for street lighting, create backup for wind farm operation or power for buildings and homes.

One of the cases that has generated the most media coverage is the case of the Johan Cruyff Arena in the Netherlands. The stadium uses reused batteries from Nissan Leaf electric cars, which together with 4,200 solar panels provide power to the stadium. This makes it the largest energy storage center in Europe.

As a result, these batteries may reach a total lifespan of more than 20 years, but sooner or later they will fall into disrepair and something will have to be done about them. According to an analysis by Recyclia, Ecopilas and Recyberica Ambiental, 70% of electric battery products can be reused in new products, and for this reason companies specializing in such treatment have emerged in recent years.

This brings us to the second method; recycling, which can be done in three main ways: pyrometallurgical, hydrometallurgical or dismantling .

To get one ton of lithium, you need 250 tons of lithium or 750 tons of lithium-rich brine.

Companies like Umicore burn and grind the batteries and then extract nickel, cobalt and copper for reuse. The problem is that other raw materials such as lithium, aluminum and graphite are lost in this process.

The German company Duesenfeld chooses another method, which involves crushing batteries in a nitrogen atmosphere. With this system, up to 96% of the components can be recovered and CO2 emissions of new batteries can be reduced by 40% compared to a completely new production unit.

Another method, much more detailed and expensive, but very effective, is to disassemble the batteries to restore all their components. This method is labor and time consuming, although a shockwave system in a water tank is already being investigated to speed up the process.

Recycling is not only an environmental issue. And it lies in the fact that it takes 250 tons of lithium or 750 tons of lithium-rich brine to produce a ton of lithium. While it takes 250 tons of batteries to get a ton of lithium from recycled batteries .
Lithium is a vital element for the production of efficient batteries.

Hydrometallurgy, on the other hand, involves immersing battery materials in acid baths, resulting in a metal-rich soup. However, both this alternative and pyrometallurgy produce large amounts of waste and greenhouse gases.

All this brings us to the last fact: studies by the European Environment Agency confirm that the impact of the entire life cycle of an electric car charged with conventional electric energy results in a reduction of about 20% for diesel cars and about 30% in relation to gasoline cars . If recharged with energy from renewable sources, this figure can even be as high as 90%, the aforementioned agency notes.