EV’s are not savior of the environment

In a few centuries we used most of earth’s natural resources which were created over millions of years.

A lot of those oil is used by cars. Making it a big contributor to global warming.

If this effect of car emissions was on purpose, it was a genius plan. Say an alien would come to earth, and he finds it bit chilly. He then creates a machine, the burns all natural resources he finds on the earth. The car is a machine to warm up the earth.

Driving one car for a day of course has zero impact. Still, it’s not completely zero, but it can not be detected. What however if everyday millions of those cars are driving all over the planet for dozens of years. Then the emissions would be nicely distributed all over the earth, triggering a greenhouse effect. Genius.

Electric cars to the rescue

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the plan at all. And now we are in a climate crisis. Car drivers didn’t do this on purpose at all, but it was a side effect of their transportation needs and their love for this machine.

We all want to do something about it, but our needs and love for cars remain. That’s where the EV comes in. With EV’s you don’t need to refuel at all. No oil needed.

Tesla contributed a lot to this. The cars are 100% electric, while keeping them fast and cool. But did they really contribute to the environmental impact of cars? Aren’t electric cars mainly to ease our conscience?

I think this is exactly the case and Tesla is the prime example of this. There are a number of reasons for this. And when thinking of this, the car industry and governments really need a shift in thinking.

Chicken and eggs

The most obvious reason is of course that electricity needs to be generated. Often electricity is still produced with natural resources. Although this reason is the most frequently cited, it sticks out the least. Yes, it’s true that electricity mix is still for a large part based on natural resources.

Still, you need to begin somewhere. Doing nothing and drive our gasoline further is not an option. However, the transition to electric transportation is not an easy one. This is because a double chicken egg problem:

  1. Shall we start with making sustainable energy, or with car that use that energy?

2. Shall we start with creating a charging infrastructure, or with making EV’s?

Often, companies either come up with one part. For example, a prototype EV, a charger or a windmill. These initiatives are mostly not well coordinated, so that they don’t get off the ground. Tesla is genius here. From the start they worked on multiple areas at once. They make cars, roll out a supercharger network and install solar panels.

It’s just a step

This however doesn’t mean that it’s all good for the environment. First there are big factories needed, giga-factories, as Tesla calls them. The US Tesla factory covers more than 126 acres, which is roughly the same as 100 football fields. In Germany, Tesla had several times conflicts with environmental organizations for cutting down forest.

Then the cars need to be produced. They need Lithium-Ion batteries. These are mostly mined in Chile, Australia and China. All countries with a bad track record on taking environmental aspects into consideration. Lithium extraction inevitably harms the soil and causes air contamination. In China various recordings are with death fish:

Besides batteries the cars also needs high-grade steel. And though the Lithium may be far away, in my own neighborhood the Tata Steel factory in Amsterdam is the biggest polluter of the region and the second-largest energy consumer in the Netherlands.

Tata Steel

Besides batteries and steel, hundreds of parts must be manufactured. All these parts come from all over the world and need to be transported to the factory:

Last, but not least the car itself needs to be assembled and transported to various countries, where they are distributed to the consumer. At the end making cars has a lot of CO2 emmission:

During the lifetime of an electric car, especially when using electricity from sustainable resources, it will repay. EV’s are thus a big step forward, but not the savior of the environment.

Next step

The new Tesla Roadster accelerates from 0–60 mph within 1.9 seconds. For a car fan this is amazing, but is not the next big thing the world needs. Exactly the opposite! It turns out that making fast cars is the easy part. Making cars that are efficient and environmental friendly is the hard part.

Cars are great and cars are still needed, but we should not think that electrifying them is the end solution. I believe a lot about coverage on EV’s and CleanTech is in fact green washing:

A lot more attention from car makes, consumers and governments so really go things like:

  • Environment impact
  • Charging Co2 emissions
  • Changes batteries materials
  • Car efficiency
  • Sustainable energy for cars
  • Less parts
  • Local supply-chain
  • Cradle to cradle

In this aspect making efficient and sustainable car is much more interesting. This should be the center of our focus. Car makers like Tesla made EV’s sexy, no let’s make efficient cars with a low footprint sexy.

Final note

Especially in the US people sometimes ask the question: “what would Jesus drive?”. I think the answer is he would not drive at all.

He won’t buy a Tesla with bitcoins. He would probably put on his sandals and just walk.

And maybe take a bike. And work from home. Writing:

“let’s make the world a better place”

Check here for part 1:



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