Can switching to electric cars actually help to combat climate change?
To many of us, making the switch to electric vehicles seems like one of the best ways to combat climate change. However, a Canadian climate journalist, John Lorinc, is warning that the rush to EVs may be an expensive mistake.
The damage of electric cars may outweigh the benefits
In his new book ‘Dream States’, Lorinc has warned that the unsustainable costs of electric car ownership and the associated environmental damage may outweigh the benefits of going all electric.
“It’s a really important evolution of technology to get away from internal combustion engines, so that part is necessary,” said Lorinc conceded during a phone interview with CBC’s Don Pittis.
Electricity in EVs primarily comes from fossil fuels
But Lorinc also noted that the transition to electric vehicles has been made possible through electricity that is primarily made up of fossil fuels.
EV components are harmful too
“Electric vehicles are large engineered objects that require a lot of metal,” Lorinc said in his phone interview, “they require a lot of components that are shipped all over the place.”
It takes a lot to make an electric vehicle
“There’s a lot of mining and processing of minerals required to make the components,” Lorinc added, “so it’s not an environmental panacea by any stretch of the imagination.”
European scientists are worried too
Lorinc isn’t the only climate expert sounding the alarm about the potential pitfalls of transitioning the world to all-electric vehicles. Some European climate scientists agree that vehicles could increase the world’s CO2 emissions.
“EVs are not zero emissions”
“EVs are not zero emissions,” Professor Frank Millo told Forbes journalist Niel Winton when discussing the European Union’s recent 2035 internal combustion (ICE) ban.
“Electricity which is used to recharge the batteries from the grid is not being produced from 100% renewable sources,” Millo added.
The power grid needs to be fully renewable
Millo is a professor of internal combustion engines at Politecnico di Torino and noted that it is unlikely that Europe’s power grid will be fully renewable by the time the 2035 ICE ban comes into effect.
We need to consider all aspects of EV production
“[ICE] also misses a significant part of the picture because it doesn’t consider CO2 emissions related to vehicle fabrication and its final disposal,” Millo added, “we need to consider all the aspects, using so-called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).”
No easy answers
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to the world’s carbon emissions problem. While transitioning to electric vehicles has been a great start to solving climate change, ensuring the world’s electrical production is paramount to success according to Millo.
American’s are worried too
Similar conclusions have been made in the United States where debates about President Joe Biden’s recent Inflation Reduction Act have sparked a larger conversation about electrification in America.
Maybe the answer is to reduce our consumption
In a recent article from the Los Angeles Times, staff writer Sammy Roth questioned the United States’ current policies of electrifying as soon as possible and offered a different solution—reducing energy use as much as possible.
“What if instead of replacing fossil fuels with renewable electricity,” Roth wrote, “we should be focused on reducing our energy use as much as possible?”
The key to sustainability
“What if the key to maintaining a stable climate, Roth added, “is accepting that our current lifestyles and consumption habits, at least in the developed world, are simply unsustainable?”
The world isn’t moving fast enough.
Roth isn’t likely to find many takers for his solution to climate change, but his point still remains. The world isn’t making its infrastructure renewable fast enough, and this may have serious consequences as we move towards a fully electric-car world.