Sales of EVs have sky-rocketed 120 percent in the UK over the past year as drivers attempt to counter the cost of petrol and diesel and get ahead of the curve, with the Government banning the sale of any cars that aren’t battery powered by 2030.
However, while electric vehicles and hybrids produce low or no exhaust emissions, other factors come into play when determining how much pollution they generate.
These include where a local power grid gets its electricity, what time of day the EV is charged, the surrounding climate, the battery manufacturing process, and driving patterns.
A report by PCMag.com has looked into these factors and discovered that simply buying an EV does not mean drivers are nullifying their emissions.
Broken down into the different elements, the total environmental cost of producing and running an EV is more damaging than many think.
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Time of Day When Charging
In the US for example, different energy sources are used at different times of the day, like coal-fired power plants which are used at night in major cities.
Charging during the day, when power is drawn from cleaner sources in those areas, could help reduce emissions.
But most people charge their EVs at their houses overnight, so this may not be a feasible option for many EV owners.
Extreme heat and cold have negative effects on the efficiency of electric vehicles.
EVs in more extreme climate areas in the U.S. can use up to 15 percent more energy on average and in the coldest areas, it can be as much as 40 percent more energy use.
Cold weather slows down the chemical reactions that take place inside the lithium-ion batteries that power all-electric cars, and it requires more power for auxiliary electrical systems such as heating.
That extra energy use could translate to higher emissions if that power is drawn from fossil-fuel-burning power plants.
Battery and vehicle manufacturing are the most emissions-heavy processes involved with an EV.
Around half the lifetime emissions from an EV’s battery come from the electricity used in its manufacturing and assembly, according to the Swedish Environmental Institute.
Cobalt and lithium also have to be mined out of the earth, and in fact mining the materials for an EV battery and assembling it produces more emissions than the production of a gasoline car.
Whether an EV is used mostly for city or highway driving is another determining factor in their environmental cost.
Stop and start driving in built up areas in an EV certainly reduces emissions.
But studies have found that during motorway driving, EVs did only marginally better than gas cars at reducing emissions while costing more.