Climate change is the term used to describe the change in global and regional temperatures and climate patterns across planet Earth. We’ve been aware of climate change since the late 20th century, but enough is still not being done to counteract the negative impacts it is having on our environment.
From the extinction of wildlife to extreme flooding and droughts affecting our populations, as well as the impacts on our health, climate change is set to radically change our world as we know it. And it’s changing fast, according to NASA the planet’s average surface temperature has risen by approximately 1.18 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, largely due to the increased amount of carbon dioxide emissions entering the atmosphere due to human activity.
The use of gasoline vehicles across the world has significantly impacted the rapid rate of climate change. When a car is running, fuel is burned (combustion) making the car move, but in doing this it is producing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that are being released into the atmosphere, fuelling climate change.
Although the amount of CO2 emissions cars produce today are significantly less than those 40 years ago, in 2018 UK passenger cars released 68.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which was three times more than those emitted by heavy goods vehicles. These emissions then absorb energy from the sun, emit thermal infrared radiation and this results in an increase in the general temperature.
Between 2010 and 2019 in the UK, the transportation sector was one of the two largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, impacting climate change. However, as other industries switch to renewable energy sources, transportation seems to have been left behind. In fact, statistics show that there has been little change in the number of carbon emissions emitted by vehicles in the UK within the last decade! Within Europe, road transport accounts for 20% of all emissions.
There is therefore a great opportunity for electric vehicles to influence the impact on climate change and create a more sustainable way to travel.
The UK Government have taken action and announced that there will be a ban on the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030, in a bid to be totally carbon neutral by 2050. This means that in just 9 years, only electric vehicles (EV) will be able to be produced and sold within the UK.
But why? Because electric vehicles have the potential to have a huge influence on climate change.
An electric vehicle contains electric batteries that when charged, are filled with energy that powers the motor and makes the vehicle move. Therefore, when solely driving around, an electric vehicle will produce zero carbon emissions! Switching to electric vehicles causes a tremendously positive influence on climate change, due to reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the air and therefore slowing down the rate of climate change.
The production of an electric vehicle is unfortunately not net-zero and does produce some carbon emissions that contribute towards climate change. Manufacturing and producing the batteries of an electric vehicle can emit up to 17.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to the Swedish Environmental Institute. In addition, the production of larger batteries will of course lead to more emissions.
However, when looking at the overall lifecycle of electric vehicles compared to gasoline cars, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) have evidence to prove that an average electric car is 30% cleaner than an average European gasoline car over its entire lifecycle. The higher manufacturing-phase emissions would be ‘paid back’ in just 2 years of driving compared to a typical gasoline vehicle.
This figure continues to drop if the electricity used to produce and charge the vehicle is from renewable resources.
The type of energy resource the user chooses to charge their electric vehicle will of course have an influence on climate change. For example, having an electricity contract with a provider that uses fossil fuels will increase the overall carbon footprint of the electric car and will have a negative influence on climate change. Every time the electric car is plugged into the charge point, it will be using electricity fuelled by the burning of fossil fuels and contributing to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
However, if the electricity provider uses renewable energy resources, this can actually have a positive impact and influence on climate change, as well as overall carbon footprint, as there will be significantly less or no carbon emissions admitted when charging the vehicle.
Electric vehicles, therefore, hold many positive impacts when considering their influence on climate change. They definitely produce fewer carbon emissions on the day-to-day running and although do currently have large manufacturing emissions that will negatively impact the environment, the overall lifecycle of emissions is considerably less than that of a petrol or diesel vehicle.
Charging the electric vehicle also has the potential to contribute to climate change, however, this still accounts for less CO2 emitted overall than a gasoline vehicle. This can also be controlled by which energy supplier one uses. Switching to a renewable energy supplier will be helping to have a positive influence on the climate crisis. Currently, an electric vehicle is the most ‘green’ and sustainable long-term option when trying to reduce your carbon emissions and make a positive impact on climate change.
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