Green cars: would you buy one?
A few days ago I received an email from someone who questioned the validity of the GreenWise Green Car Guide.
“To be a useful guide to how green a car is, shouldn’t the specs include the carbon emissions of the likely electrical generation AND the embedded carbon in the manufacture of the vehicle and the sources of the component materials (including batteries)? Without that information how does one decide whether such cars are any greener than conventional cars, over their lifetime?” our critic wrote.
He was making an important point. There is real debate at the moment about how green electric and hybrid vehicles are versus conventional cars.
So are EVs and hybrid vehicles really better for the environment than conventional petrol engine vehicles?
Clearly zero or very low tailpipe emissions are going to be better in terms of air quality and carbon emissions on our roads than conventional vehicles with petrol engines.
What about the battery?
From the battery point of view, the argument for EVs is harder to make. Most EV rechargeable batteries are lithium-ion batteries, which require the rare commodity lithium to be extracted from the earth. There are also legitimate concerns around disposal of such batteries at end of life. EV batteries are not only carbon intensive to produce, they need to be replaced after just a few years.
All the same, a study published by Research Institute Empa found even with the battery taken into account a petrol-powered car would need to achieve 70 miles per gallon to be as green as an EV.
What about the embedded carbon of the car itself?
It is true to say the automobile industry still has a long way to go before it is completely transparent about the embedded carbon of its vehicles. Lifecycle assessments are far from routine, but automakers are starting to address this part of their operation. According to the Guardian, Jaguar Land Rover is going to be assessing the lifecycle emissions – which includes production – on all its new models.
What about charging?
My thoughts on this are that we in at the transition stage of our move to a low carbon economy with new advancements being made all time. For example, just last week GreenWise reported on Green Motion launching the first charging points in the UK connected to renewable energy.
Would it not be reckless for us to wait to address the tailpipe emissions of vehicles until such point as we’ve weaned ourselves off fossil fuels?
Neither should we forget issues of energy security: oil is running out and is a volatile commodity and the cost of it is rising; electric cars may be more expensive to buy but they are much cheaper to run.
What is your view on electric cars? Do you think they are greener than conventional cars? Would you be convinced enough to buy one?