To those of us who concentrate on sustainability and green options for travel, electromobility appears to be a godsend — but the increasingly popular electromobility lifestyle still holds good and bad traits. Thankfully, as the market continues to grow, electric vehicles such as e-bikes and scooters only continue to improve since they were first introduced, and electric cars continue to get more and more sophisticated and efficient each year. While there are obvious benefits to using or even owning one of these trendy vehicles, the electromobility industry still has some kinks to work out. Here are the pros and cons to consider before embracing electromobility.
Pro: less utilization of fossil fuels
Though the extraction of different kinds of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) present different levels and types of impact on the environment, they all have one thing in common: emitting harmful pollutants and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned. These pollutants can include sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that contribute to acid rain, smog and soot.
While the burning of fossil fuels poses serious issues, it doesn’t stop there. The only ways to extract these fossil fuels from the Earth is by mining or drilling, and both have the potential to generate significant air and water pollution, inflict serious health issues to workers or the local community and alter ecosystems. Offshore drilling poses risks of oil spills that can absolutely devastate ocean life.
As the transportation sector as a whole relies almost exclusively on fossil fuels, it is responsible for a majority of the hidden environmental costs that the fossil fuel industry implements on the Earth. According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, “In general, EVs produce fewer emissions that contribute to climate change and smog than conventional vehicles … EVs typically produce fewer life cycle emissions [emissions from vehicles over the course of its life from production to disposal] than conventional vehicles, because most emissions are lower for electricity generation than burning gasoline or diesel.”
Replacing harmful fossil fuels with electric vehicle batteries comes at a cost. Producing these large lithium batteries requires natural resources from lithium and nickel mines, which can emit pollutants such as sulfur dioxide into the air and pose health risks to workers. Most batteries, especially in smaller EVs like scooters and e-bikes, have a limited lifespan. After disposal, batteries can end up in landfills to release toxins into the environment or in the ocean to harm sea life.
Pro: improved air quality
The potential to dramatically improve air quality is arguably the biggest draw for electromobility from an environmental perspective. The lack of exhaust systems in electric vehicles means less carbon dioxide emissions and less greenhouse gas buildup in our atmosphere.
According to the U.N., air pollution causes 1 in 9 deaths around the world and, “Transport contributes approximately one quarter of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, which is set to reach one-third, growing faster than any other sector.” The majority of car growth in the world is expected to take place in developing countries, most of which don’t have any type of vehicle emissions standards or programs incentivizing low-emission transportation. U.N. Environment is working to sponsor 50 countries and cities around the world to introduce electric cars and electric methods of public transportation.
Con: energy use
Even though electric vehicles don’t emit as much carbon dioxide, the batteries still need to be recharged regularly. As the demand for electric modes of transportation grows, so does the need for energy — and not all energy comes from renewable sources. For this reason, many owners of electric cars opt to install solar panels onto their homes to charge the vehicles from inside their garages at a much lower cost both financially and to the environment.
Pro: decreased expenses
Just the knowledge alone that their vehicle is better for the environment is enough for some consumers when it comes to purchasing an electric car, scooter or bike, but the reasons to make the investment into electromobility go far beyond peace of mind.
A 2018 study from the University of Michigan revealed that in no U.S. state is it cheaper to use gasoline than electricity. Operating an EV in the United States, according to the study, was $485 per year, while the cost for operating a gas-powered car was $1,117. That means on average, gasoline-powered vehicles cost twice as much as electric ones. Because EVs don’t require oil either, oil changes aren’t necessary, meaning maintenance time and cost is significantly reduced as well.
If all that still doesn’t convince you, some EV owners are eligible for a tax break as high as $7,500 depending on the individual tax situation and type of vehicle. The EPA website can help you estimate just how much money you could save by making the switch.