Editorial Feature

Latest Research in the Environmental Benefits and Challenges of Electric Vehicles

Traditional combustion engines impact the environment due to the emission of gases like carbon dioxide (CO2). Electric vehicles (EVs), on the other hand, have emerged as a solution to provide environmentally friendly transportation. This article discusses the challenges and benefits of electric vehicles and the future of the EV industry.

electric vehicles, developments

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Transportation Industry and Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse gases (GHG) are one of the leading causes of environmental degradation and climate change, and about 30% of GHGs are produced by the transportation industry.

Statistics indicate that the transportation industry is growing rapidly, with a 35% increase in vehicles from 1990 to 2014 in the US alone, and it is estimated that by 2050, the number of cars will increase three times more than their current number.

Since the energy source of 93% of these vehicles is non-renewable petroleum-based, this increase in vehicles will contribute even more to the production of greenhouse gases.

Environmental Benefits and Challenges of Electric Vehicles

Benefits

Electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as a promising solution to reduce the environmental impact of transportation since electric vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions, reducing the greenhouse gas release significantly even when electricity generation from fossil fuels is considered.

The widespread EV adoption significantly reduces harmful air pollutants, improving air quality and public health. Moreover, electric vehicles are more energy-efficient than traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles since their energy-to-propulsion conversion efficiency is much better than ICE vehicles.

Challenges

One of the main drawbacks of EVs is that the most common type of batteries used are lithium-ion batteries, which pose an environmental threat since raw lithium and cobalt extraction has a negative environmental impact.

Similarly, another challenge associated with EVs is the requirement for robust charging infrastructure, including increased grid capacity and the deployment of charging stations in public spaces, workplaces, and residential areas.

Another challenge is the lack of consumers' intention for electric vehicle usage. For this purpose, a study was conducted recently in 2020 that empirically investigated the influencing factors for consumers' intention to use electric vehicles by analyzing 211 peer-reviewed research papers covering consumers' usage, behavioral, purchase, and adoption intentions and also categorized influential factors in four primary categories, including psychological, contextual, situational, and demographic.

The results of the meta-analysis indicated that between 2009 and 2019, the electric vehicle trend has significantly increased. The research also provided future directions for EV research that may assist the automobile industry and governments in increasing the usage share of electric vehicles.

Recent Research

Environmental impact of ICE vehicles and EVs

Researchers in a 2021 study developed an evaluation framework that estimated the environmental impact associated with Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles and Electric Vehicles by adopting a Life Cycle Assessment approach.

The results of this study indicate that the CO2 emissions throughout the life cycle of an EV are lower than their comparable ICE vehicles. Moreover, the study highlights the influence of geographical location in the upstream phases of the vehicle supply chain, particularly for EVs. It emphasizes the dominant impact of the usage phase on EVs' CO2 emissions, followed by vehicle and battery manufacturing.

Novel analytic hierarchy process multicriteria decision-making (AHP-MCDM)

To assess public road vehicles based on their alternative engine technologies and combustion characteristics, a 2021 study proposes a novel analytic hierarchy process multicriteria decision-making (AHP-MCDM) model that combines environmental and economic criteria.

Based on 2020 statistics released by the Madrid City Council, the suggested model was used to analyze Madrid's urban public road transportation. The results indicated how alternative vehicles affected the economy and environment and demonstrated that the plug-in electric vehicle is the most environmentally and economically sustainable alternative.

Future Prospects of the Electric Vehicle Sector

While considering the future of the EV industry, the critics mostly point out the emissions and pollution caused by the mining of raw materials and the process of making EV batteries. However, all recent research on ICE and EV comparison indicates that even when considering mining and production of batteries, EVs still produce significantly fewer emissions than IC engine vehicles through their total life cycle.

For instance, when the Toyota Camry is compared to the Tesla Model 3, the former produces 68 tons of carbon dioxide in its lifetime compared to Tesla's 15 tons. However, there is still a need for process innovations to reduce mine waste generation. For this purpose, in a recent 2023 study, researchers have forecasted global mine waste for four metals extensively used in batteries, including nickel, manganese, lithium, and copper. They found that their waste volumes are expected to rise rapidly.

Therefore, the study suggests a combination of six alternate extractive procedure innovations, including in-situ recovery, ore-sand co-production, preconcentration and coarse particle flotation, dry-stacking and co-mingling, environmental desulphurization and mine waste reprocessing to reduce mine waste production.

Finally, integrating EVs with renewable energy sources is imperative for transportation since it further reduces carbon emissions and enhances the overall environmental benefits. Moreover, government policies and incentives can also play a significant role through continuous support, including financial incentives, tax credits, and investment in charging infrastructure, to accelerate the transition to electric mobility.

Continue Reading: Electric Vehicle Batteries: A Market Report

References and Further Reading

Ahmadi, P. (2019). Environmental impacts and behavioral drivers of deep decarbonization for transportation through electric vehicles. Journal of Cleaner Production. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652619310509

Franzò, S., & Nasca, A. (2021). The environmental impact of electric vehicles: A novel life cycle-based evaluation framework and its applications to multi-country scenarios. Journal of Cleaner Production. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S095965262102223X

Gutiérrez, L., Oliva, M., & Romero-Ania, A. (2021). Managing Sustainable Urban Public Transport Systems: An AHP Multicriteria Decision Model. Sustainability. https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/9/4614

Hui, M., & Diaz, C. (2023). EVs are far cleaner than gas-powered cars - even if batteries require more mining. Retrieved from https://qz.com/electric-vehicles-cleaner-battery-mining-1850129845

Singh, V., Singh, V., & Vaibhav, S. (2020). A review and simple meta-analysis of factors influencing adoption of electric vehicles. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1361920920306234

Valenta, R. K., Lèbre, É., Antonio, C., Franks, D. M., Jokovic, V., Micklethwaite, S., ... & Yahyaei, M. (2023). Decarbonisation to drive dramatic increase in mining waste–Options for reduction. Resources, Conservation and Recycling. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0921344922006917?dgcid=author

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Taha Khan

Written by

Taha Khan

Taha graduated from HITEC University Taxila with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. During his studies, he worked on several research projects related to Mechanics of Materials, Machine Design, Heat and Mass Transfer, and Robotics. After graduating, Taha worked as a Research Executive for 2 years at an IT company (Immentia). He has also worked as a freelance content creator at Lancerhop. In the meantime, Taha did his NEBOSH IGC certification and expanded his career opportunities.  

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