One of the main selling points of the electric vehicle is its oil-free, eco-friendly technology, which has been touted as a key solution to The Great Carbon Emissions Dilemma. But as EVs become more mainstream, an important question has arisen among enthusiasts and skeptics alike: Are EVs really the ‘greener’ option?
Experts when it comes to transportation broadly agree that plug-in cars are a more sustainable choice than traditional vehicles. However, as research shows, things get a little tricky in the production phase. A report from the MIT Energy Initiative reveals that during the production of EV batteries and other components, the emissions are greater compared to the production of a gasoline-powered vehicle, and this poses a higher risk to the environment.
The good news is that most EV drivers can rest easy knowing that these high environmental costs are usually offset by the impressive energy efficiency of their vehicles over time. But as manufacturers create more processing plants and facilities to meet the rising demand for EVs around the world, it is now more important to promote sustainable strategies that reduce emissions during production.
Here we will examine the environmental issues related to EV production and what EV companies should do to address them.
The EV paradox: using energy to save energy
The most essential part of the EV is the rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which is popular for its excellent charging capabilities and ability to store a lot of energy in a small space. These benefits do not come cheap, as the battery is made from raw materials such as cobalt, graphite, lithium and manganese – minerals that are extracted and processed with high energy from carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
Material emissions will rise to more than 60% by 2040.
What this means, according to raw materials expert Minviro, is that for every ton of lithium mined, 15 tons of carbon is emitted into the atmosphere. As battery research progresses, manufacturers are turning to more advanced materials like aluminum and nickel to create lightweight batteries that can take cars further. Because these minerals are also energy-intensive to mine and produce, they generate even more greenhouse gases.
The battery is just one part of an EV — other metals used in the vehicle’s body and chassis account for more than 47% of its production’s carbon footprint, according to the researchers. a report from Greenpeace† Despite this, the scale of production in EV mega-factories and the supply chain operations also contribute to the huge environmental footprint left at the end of the production process.
As the EV hype continues to take up more space and attract motorists, it just means more cars are being produced, which in turn would lead to further emissions. take it from McKinsey & Co.reporting that material emissions will rise to more than 60% by 2040, from 18% today.
Make no mistake – the EV still remains a viable means of curbing car transport emissions. However, it is now up to production companies to address the environmental damage caused during production. What measures can they take to improve their track record?
Capture resources, but make it ethical
Much of the world’s battery-grade lithium comes from mineral ore mines and liquid brine reservoirs beneath salt flats. Current methods of capturing these raw materials are highly energy consuming, but alternative processes are currently underway to manage environmental impact.
Direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology is one such process that uses techniques such as nanofiltration or ion exchange resins. They act as a chemical sieve to collect the lithium chloride only from brine reservoirs, leaving other salts in the water. The lithium chloride is then purified and concentrated to produce lithium hydroxide, which is used to make EV batteries.
Other small-scale practices such as extraction from geothermal water can also be beneficial. Here, the lithium processing plants refine both high-quality lithium and clean water, which can be returned to the main source and reused.
To meet consumers’ sustainability demands, companies like: North Star take measures to keep the public informed about the origin of raw materials. The company maintains an ongoing partnership with software company Circulor, which now includes: traceability of blockchain from mica, in addition to cobalt already traced in the Polestar 2 batteries, from material source to finished product.
Sustainable factories make sustainable cars
Sustainable industrial design can help increase energy efficiency during production, storage and distribution of EVs. Energy-efficient models such as net-zero structures can help conserve energy by using high-quality envelopes, sunlight control, shading systems and air barrier devices.
The amount of carbon produced during the manufacturing process must also be taken into account. One way to manage the impact on the environment is to install high efficiency motors and variable speed drives. This will not only help to minimize energy consumption, but also optimize efficiency in the production process.
When building an industrial warehouse or manufacturing facility, it is important to consider renewable energy sources as an important part of sustainable building design. Green technology such as solar panels can help manufacturers optimize power production and reduce their environmental footprint.
Polestar reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 6% per car sold by 2021.
Many energy-efficient buildings are also optimized for space, with optimized seals that control electricity waste and modernized lighting systems to reduce their dependence on the grid. When designing production centers, it is worth making sure that the building is more compatible with efficient devices to reduce the emissions of light and heat.
Make old batteries new again
Like any other industry that deals with mass production, the key word here is ‘recycle’.
As the demand for EVs steadily increases and some of the existing models reach the end of their allotted life, the need to reuse old batteries to produce new ones will become more relevant. While this process is already under development, it is important for manufacturers to roll it out on an industrial scale and do their part to support recycling. This would undoubtedly bring even more efficiency to the EV industry.
Demystifying EV Production
It’s still quite unusual to hear EV companies talk about the magnitude of their production emissions and the steps they are taking to reduce them. At the risk of losing the battle with emissions targets, it has become important for companies in the EV industry to explicitly disclose the environmental impact of their operations.
In a recent report, Polestar announced it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6% per car sold by 2021, thanks to greater efficiency and the use of renewable energy. The report also highlighted the company’s plan to make a truly carbon neutral car by 2030, halve CO2 emissions per car sold between 2020 and 2030 and achieve ultimate neutrality by 2040.
There is no doubt that these measures will take time and require new innovations to move companies forward, but as Polestar shows, it is important for EV manufacturers to provide fair, transparent reporting on production and production emissions to ensure that they continue to make progress in this area.