July 05, 2021
As EV is making a serious inroad into the automotive market, many EV manufacturers claim EV as a 100% green vehicle. But whether EV is indeed a green vehicle or not is the million-dollar question. If green means zero tailpipe emissions of GHG (greenhouse gases) and PM (particulate matter) then EVs are indeed green compared to ICE (Internal combustion engine) vehicles, which spew GHG and harmful gases in the near vicinity. But rather than thinking in this narrow perspective, if you consider in the broader perspective, then green means zero emission of harmful gases and GHG from the entire ecosystem (from production to consumption)of any product. Then in that sense, EV can’t be considered 100% green.
EV can be considered 100% green if it meets the following conditions.
1. Production of electricity to charge battery must be green.
In the context of grid-tied EV charging, electricity is produced from fossil fuels (such as coal, gas, and hydrocarbons), which emit GHGs and other pollutants nearby the production site. To be qualified a100% greener, EV must be charged either by stand-alone solar EV charging or electricity produced by nuclear power or renewable (such as solar or wind). Battery swapping and charging from solar can also be explored.
2. Manufacturing of battery from the extraction of raw material to final product stage must be green. The process of extracting, separating, mixing, and drying rare earth minerals and other minerals (such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, aluminium, phosphate, copper, and manganese) for manufacturing of lithium battery is energy-intensive and also emit toxic gases and 56 to 494 KG of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of battery capacity (kg CO2/kWh). Improvement in the extracting process and using renewable energy may reduce GHG but not eliminate it. The mining and processing of metals such as the electrolyte and salt (LiPF6) used in the Li-ion batteries as a separator is hazardous to human health.
Adopting newer battery technologies such as (Li-air, Li-metal, and solid-state batteries) and replacing the liquid electrolyte with solid material may be explored to reduce toxicity. Recycling of battery and critical materials such as cobalt obviate the need for extraction of rare earth and other metals.
3. Process of manufacturing auto components and embedded power electronics must be green. Traditionally heat process, which uses fossil fuel is employed in manufacturing many automobile components. By electrifying heat processes using direct heating emission of GHGs and pollutants can be controlled.
4. Zero carbon freight carrier
Furthermore, usage of zero-carbon freight carrier (hydrogen-fuel cell trucks/railway run on electricity produced by renewable) should be deployed to carry out entire transportation from extraction of metal to finished product to the consumer end carbon-free.
Although claimed by many EV manufacturers, EV is not 100% green, improvement in battery production techniques, the extraction process, and integration of renewable in the entire production process of components and battery of EV may make EV much greener. But making EV 100% green is a utopian dream as replacing fossil fuels from all the manufacturing stages is technically not feasible.