The EV Dilemma
Decoding the Environmental Impact and Choices for Greener Transport
When it comes to choosing an environmentally friendly car, the options can be overwhelming. Should you stick with your current vehicle, go for a new electric car, or consider converting your existing car to electric or hybrid? In this article, we delve into the advice of an expert to shed light on the most sustainable choices for the future of transportation.
Decarbonising Transportation: With the threat of climate change looming, low-emission zones and potential combustion engine bans are prompting car owners in the UK and EU to seek greener modes of transport. Passenger cars contribute significantly to global CO2 emissions, making decarbonisation urgent.
Manufacturing Emissions and EVs: When considering the environmental impact of electric vehicles (EVs), accounting for the emissions generated during manufacturing is essential. Producing an 80-kilowatt-hour battery for an EV emits about eight to ten tonnes of CO2, mainly due to materials mined and refined in China. These figures are expected to decrease as the world transitions to renewable energy.
On-Road Emissions Comparison: Once on the road, battery-powered EVs are emissions-free, unlike traditional combustion engine cars. An average combustion engine car in the UK emits roughly two to three tonnes of CO2 per year, based on an average annual distance of 15,000 kilometres. You would need to drive an EV for approximately four years to offset these emissions.
Battery Lifespan and Longevity: Although EVs have lower emissions during their lifetime, their carbon-heavy batteries have a limited lifespan. Most EV batteries have an eight-year warranty and require replacement every 10 to 20 years. To achieve significant CO2 reductions, batteries need to last beyond the average life expectancy of a vehicle, around 14 years.
Additional Hurdles for EVs: Range anxiety, cost, and limited charging infrastructure are common concerns associated with EV adoption. However, one less-discussed issue is the weight of EVs. Due to their large battery packs, EVs are approximately 400 to 500 kilograms heavier than combustion engine cars. This added weight affects design considerations and leads to faster wear and tear on specially designed tires, which are highly polluting to manufacture.
Converting Gas-Powered Cars and Hybrid Solutions: As we transition to a decarbonised society, the fate of the millions of existing combustion engine cars is a pressing question. Converting gas-powered cars to electric is possible but comes with a high price tag and complex modifications. While feasible for classic or niche cars, it is unlikely to become mainstream due to cost and complexity. Hybrid vehicles, which combine petrol tanks with electric batteries, provide a middle ground. While they offer some environmental benefits and are cheaper than EVs, they still rely on combustion engines and will eventually be phased out.
Choosing the right car for a sustainable future is a complex decision. Electric vehicles offer emissions-free driving once on the road, but their manufacturing emissions and battery lifespan must be considered. 
Converting existing cars to electric is costly and time-consuming, making it an option primarily for enthusiasts. Hybrid cars provide an interim solution but will eventually be replaced by fully electric vehicles.
As we navigate the transition, it's crucial to weigh the environmental impact of our choices and embrace sustainable transportation for a greener planet.