With the Climate Action Plan 2023 aiming to have 30% of Ireland’s private car fleet switched to electric by 2030, people are beginning to ask, “What type of car is most environmentally friendly?”
It’s a good question, too, as the choice of electric vehicle is ever expanding. Switching to an electric vehicle comes with many considerations, such as needing to install an electric vehicle charging station. Among other considerations is, of course, the environmental impact electric vehicles have. So, on that note, let’s investigate why electric vehicles are better for the environment.
Why are Electric Vehicles Better for the Environment?
Electric vehicles benefit the environment in many ways. According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), the key areas are:
Emissions and Air Quality
Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, which is slightly different from saying they’re fully zero emissions. Zero tailpipe emissions means that EVs save pedestrians and cyclists from breathing in the dangerous gases; EV emissions are also much less per km when compared to a petrol or diesel vehicle. This remains true even when we include power station emissions.
Furthermore, zero tailpipe emissions means lower CO2 levels – even lower than the cleanest petrol engines. EVs produce 60g of CO2 per km while a petrol engine produces 130g per km*.
*Based on CO2 generated at a power station that produces electricity for an EV.
We must also consider nitrogen oxides (N0x) and sulphur oxides (SOx). These are two harmful gases emitted through the burning of fossil fuels. Electric vehicles help to reduce the amount of these gases entering the air. Lastly, Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles emit particulates. These soot-like particles negatively impact the human respiratory system. EVs do not emit these particulates.
While it may not immediately come to mind when we think of EVs and the environment, environmental pollution does include noise. EVs are quieter than ICEs which contributes to a more peaceful environment. For safety reasons, EVs still emit a sound when travelling at low speeds.
Oil, Dirt, and Replacement Parts
Needing no engine oil and with less wear on brakes and tyres, EVs show their broad range of benefits. With less wear on brakes and tyres, there’s less dust and dirt produced. This also means that you don’t need to replace or recycle parts as often.
Renewables and Electricity
The electricity system in Ireland is fuelled by a variety of sources, some of which are cleaner than others. EV batteries assist the move to renewable energy sources by combining communications with existing smart energy technologies. This means better alignment between energy consumption and the availability of renewable energy sources.
We can’t forget vehicle charging, either, especially nighttime charging. Overall energy consumption is lower at night and wind generation tends to be more prominent in the energy mix. By charging at night, EVs consume greater amounts of renewables. This also acts as a buffer to stabilise the electricity system.
What is the Environmental Impact of an Electric Vehicle?
Let’s dig a little deeper into the Environmental Impact of an Electric Vehicle, shall we? In their 2023 factsheet, What is the environmental impact of electric cars?, the European Environmental Bureau stated that the European Union must become climate neutral by 2039 in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Furthermore, they outlined that “annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions must fall from the current level of around 682 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents (CO2e) of total road transportation to 68 million tonnes of CO2e by 2050.”
The European Environmental Bureau goes on to say that a shift to “climate-friendly transport sector is urgently needed.” While they include the need for better pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, they also point to the significant impact of vehicles on our roads. For vehicles to play their part, greater use of EVs is essential.
EVs, for starters, are far less harmful to the environment than ICEs as they run off a battery. EVs consume fewer minerals and metals than ICEs and as a result have less of an impact on global warming and ozone precursors. By 2050, the European Environmental Bureau says, it’s assumed that battery drive will have a significantly lower environmental impact than combustion drive in almost all areas.
Regarding CO2, an average medium-sized diesel car of the “Golf class” can cause up to three times as much CO2e/km as a comparable electric car. The CO2 emissions of the battery drive can be almost completely avoided if renewable energy is used.
Green electricity will also grow in importance as we further rely on EVs. ICEs use more water than EVs, but there’s also the issue of water pollution during crude oil extraction. We must also account for damage to and the consumption of water reservoirs in dry areas during lithium extraction. This can be reduced through water recovery and separation processes as well as lithium-free batteries.
Minimising vehicle weight, new battery types, and due diligence in the supply chain will also become essential factors. Additionally, the recycling and repair of batteries can have a positive effect in the long run.
As you can see, electric vehicles can greatly benefit the environment over time. This, of course, is the aim of the Climate Action Plan 2023, so it’s important to consider your EV options sooner rather than later.
Ready to make the switch? eStation can help
If you’re thinking of making the switch to an electric vehicle, eStation can help. We’ve been installing and supplying EV charging solutions throughout Ireland since 2015 and can help you get set up to make the most of your new electric car.
We even offer post-installation management software and the eStation App to help you optimise your charging station.
To discover how eStation can help you make the most of your EV, get in touch today.