With the massive upsurge in usage and ownership of electric vehicles, just how green are they really? is a massive hot topic. Yes the car may produce 0 emissions , but if it’s plugged into the grid, then unless it’s renewable clean energy being generated is it really that green ?
There is an awful lot of argument and skepticism that is the emissions from energy generation could be just as much if not more than that of normal petrol or diesel vehicles. Well without getting debunking and quoting stats from reports, let’s look at what we do know and before we get into anything too deep.
Firstly how is the car being powered? Plugin full electric, hybrid PHEV plugin or self-charging hybrid. So let’s take Plugin full electric with no combustion engine at all and just an electric motor totally reliant on batteries, their range and recharge time.
Is the energy Green that powers it?
That depends on how the electricity is being generated and some may argue that Nuclear energy is clean energy, maybe in as much as the emissions, but not the nuclear waste produced as a bye product. Modern reactors we are told are much cleaner than the older ones.
Wind turbines , yes green and renewable energy.
Solar farms, yes green and renewable, but you also need to look at the manufacturing process and the expected life of solar panels.
Biogas, energy made from food waste, green waste and often animal excrement.
Hydroelectric, probably one of the most efficient and cleanest, mainly because of the constant water flow and generation efficiency.
Wind turbines need wind and that’s not always available all the time, depending upon location, offshore wind farms we are told are more efficent.
Biomass fuel-powered which has been used to convert the old coal-powered stations, or incinerators to generate electricity, although the amount of filtration needed on the incinerator some may argue it’s debatable if that’s a clean source of energy.
So if you plug your car into your house and you have solar panels fitted with battery storage capacity it’s pretty much a self-sufficient charging system.
Solar panels are most efficient in the day time, so unless you work from home or your workplace has solar-paneled charging stations, then you way up efficiency.
for most of us mere mortals that don’t have access to solar, just make sure your energy supplier puts you on a “green tariff “ where all if not at least the vast majority of the energy is produced by cleaner generation through renewable energy sources.
The batteries required to run the cars are not exactly seen as environmentally friendly in the chemicals and minerals used to produce them.
Extremely unfriendly to dismantle the end of life and disposal.
Although I understand the network of charging points is growing, I think until we see a dramatic increase in range before a recharge is required maybe self-charging is a better option. By all means if you only make short journeys buy an all-electric car, but the technology is still evolving and getting better which each newer model seeing increased range.
So are Self-charging hybrids the answer?
Self-charging hybrids are great for an awful lot of people simply because there is no need to plug them in, yes it still contains batteries, but much smaller than the full-electric cars require. It still has a petrol engine, which runs more efficiently due to using both under heavy load and increased driving speeds. For urban driving, at lower speeds, it can switch to electric.
Don’t get confused with PHEV which in all honesty is a token effort for most people if they travel a fair distance as the electric range is only on average mostly 30miles before it switches back over into petrol mode. Use both electric and petrol together for super-fast acceleration and it’s even less than a few miles. For me, I can see how company drivers are being swayed by the tax breaks on PHEV, but if a company really wants to make a difference to the environment there may be more efficient ways of reducing their carbon footprint.
So, in conclusion, I feel we have got a long way to go yet before the vast majority of people switch to full Electric vehicles and is it the heart or the mind that drives that decision.
For me personally, it makes more sense, for now anyway, to run our latest addition to the household which is a city car, with a 1.0ltr highly efficient petrol engine, stop-start technology, costs £40 to fill and achieves a whopping 70mpg. So no electric car yet for us anyway.