Is electric mobility eco-friendly?
Top climate scientists are alarming that climate change is ‘hitting harder and sooner’ than forecasted. In their report, issued just ahead of the UN summit dedicated to the climate change topic, they call the key decision-makers for immediate action.
Burning fossil fuels for the last 100 years almost irreversibly damaged our planet. The transport sector is one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions. Road transportation accounts for approximately 70% of the entire transportation sector’s CO2 emissions. Electric vehicles, aiming to replace internal combustion engines and be environmentally friendly, quickly failed to deliver on the ‘zero emissions’ promises. Comparison of life cycle assessment between EV and a combustion engine vehicle shows that EV’s although not emitting directly CO2, they use electricity that is, in large part, still produced from fossil fuels in most places in the world. Moreover, fossil fuels might still be used in the production of the entire vehicle and the battery. Battery, which again is from lithium, a non-renewable material. The same principle applies for all electric vehicles, including e-mopeds and e-scooters.
Does that mean that the future should not be electric?
Although EV’s running on electricity produced from coal might have a similar carbon footprint as traditional combustion engine vehicles, EV’s running and produced from renewable electricity are significantly more sustainable. The European Union has a target of at least 20% share of renewable energy in its energy mix by 2020 and at least 32% by 2030, with a further goal to achieve carbon-neutral economy by 2050. That means the EV’s ‘fuel’ will be soon, in most member states, renewable with zero or close to zero CO2 emissions.
Renewable electricity to power sustainable electric vehicles
EV’s production and battery production is, however, another issue. Most of the EV’s and their batteries are produced in China and the USA. Both countries with not the best climate track record and without any sound promise to increase the share of its renewable electricity in the near future.
Electric vehicle production and battery production for five major electric vehicle manufacturing regions in 2017.
Source: By Nicholas P. Lutsey published on ResearchGate
That means that EV’s and electric batteries produced and used in the EU have, and definitely will have significantly lower carbon footprint in comparison to the internal combustion engine vehicles and even EV’s produced and operated in other regions with less sustainable electricity supply.
The same principle applies to all electric vehicles such as e-mopeds and e-scooters. The study that created a sound bite in the news during summer, claiming that electric scooters are not as eco-friendly as they seem, assumes that the scooters are manufactured in China and transported to the United States. Therefore, correctly pointing out the impact on global warming dominated by materials used, manufacturing and transportation. Now, if the research would assume e-scooters manufactured and used in the EU, especially vehicles with increased lifetime and with reduced collection and distribution distance, the results would be, not so surprisingly, much different.