Electric cars - there are all sorts of environmental problems

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Perjantai 5.5.2023 klo 14:22 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In the name of combatting climate change, car manufacturing is rapidly changing from producing petrol- and diesel-consuming cars to electric cars. It is reasonable to ask, if electric cars are a sustainable solution. There are several problems, which should mean that one cannot increase the number of cars, even if they are electric. Rather, to combat climate and other environmental changes, the number of cars should be drastically reduced. The paragraphs below indicate the reasoning for this.

First, electric cars are fossil fuel-free only if the electricity used in them is produced not using coal and oil. The overall electricity use increases markedly with increasing number of electric cars. Hitherto the proportion of electricity produced using fossil fuels has not really decreased, even though the electricity produced using renewable sources has increased markedly. This is due to the increase in the total electricity use. So, presently an electric car user may increase the use of fossil fuels in electricity production (naturally depending on the country).

Second, production of cars is using a lot of steel. Steel production is currently one of the most important sources of emitted carbon dioxide. For example, out of the total carbon dioxide emitted by Sweden, steel production accounts for more than 10 %. The steel producers are aware of their large carbon footprint, and companies are currently competing to have carbon-free steel production. Carbon-free steel will undoubtedly be eagerly bought by car manufacturers. However, its production requires a lot of electricity, so fossil fuel-free electricity production is the key also here.

Third, present electric cars are on average bigger and heavier than petrol-fuelled cars. As a consequence, their production needs more steel. Also, their batteries use more of the metals, which must be mined with dire consequences to the environment. Some of the needed metals occur only in low concentrations even in the richest ores. Electric cars must thus become smaller and new types of batteries utilizing commonly occurring compounds developed.

Fourth, almost every day news alerts us about the dangers of microplastics. It is hardly ever mentioned that by far the most important source of them is tyrewear. They cannot be removed in sewage treatment, as they are produced wherever cars are driven. The amount of particles released increases with the weight of the car, so the heavier electric cars are a bigger problem than current petrol cars.

All in all, electric cars have several problems, so we should try to reduce the number of automobiles in use. By doing that, some land now taken up by roads would be free for other uses. Doing it may be required for the wellbeing of environment.

Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, microplastics, steel production, electricity

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