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  • Writer's pictureGregory Andrews

Fact Over Fiction: The Environmental Superiority of EVs

On my social media channels, climate change denialists seem increasingly obessed with making blanket statements about EVs being bad for the environment, especially due to their batteries. So what does the evidence show? Of course, EVs significantly reduce emissions compared to their fossil-fuelled counterparts. But this singular lens is too narrow. Let’s dive deeper into why, emissions aside, EVs are by far the more environmentally friendly choice than Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles.

Superior Resource Efficiency

One of the most compelling arguments for the superiority of EVs over ICE vehicles is their resource efficiency. A study by Transport & Environment highlighted the stark contrast in raw material waste: only about 30kg of raw material is lost over the lifecycle of lithium-ion batteries used in EVs when recycling is factored in. This compares with an average of 17,000 litres of single-use oil consumed by ICE vehicles over their lifetimes. This means, even ignoring emissions, EVs demonstrate far more efficient use of our planet's finite resources. Purchasing petrol and diesel also directly and indirectly supports major oil-producing dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela which are notorious for their human rights abuses.

The Recycling Edge

The potential for recycling is another area where EVs outshine ICE vehicles. While petrol and diesel burned by ICE vehicles is gone for good, metals and materials used in EV batteries can be recycled. This significantly reduces the need for so-called virgin materials, cutting down on environmental impacts associated with mining and resource extraction. As EVs grow as a share of the total market, and battery technologies advance and recycling processes improve, this advantage will further increase. Furthermore, in contrast to what comes out of the exhaust pipes of ICE vehicles, the minerals in batteries are valuable. This creates an incentive for their reuse and recycling.

Lower Lifetime Energy Use

Even when we set aside the direct emissions from driving, EVs require much less energy over their lifetime compared to ICE vehicles. This includes energy used in manufacturing, operating, and eventually recycling EVs. Thanks to the inherent efficiency of electric motors and ongoing improvements in battery technology, EVs are also much more energy-efficient.

Internal Combustion Engines are inherently inefficient compared to electric motors. The science and data show they waste 80% of their energy as heat, noise and pollution. In contrast, EVs use 89% of the energy that is put into them.

Reduced Pollution and Health Benefits

It's not just about greenhouse gasses. ICE vehicles emit a cocktail of toxic and cancer-causing pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, black carbon and volatile organic compounds, which all have severe health implications. EVs, on the other hand, produce no exhaust emissions. This means cleaner air, fewer smog-related health issues, and a generally healthier and less noisy environment for all living beings, including humans.

Encouraging Renewable Energy Adoption

The shift towards EVs is intrinsically linked to the broader adoption of renewable energy. EVs offer the flexibility of being powered by a range of energy sources, including solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. As the grid becomes greener, so too does every kilometre driven by an EV. This symbiotic relationship between EVs and renewable energy paves the way for a more sustainable and environmentally friendly transportation system. And in the meantime, even where the grid is fossil-fuelled, EV's still have less emissions when charged with fossil-fuelled electricity compared to ICE vehicles.

The evidence is clear. Way beyond their direct emissions reduction credentials, EV's are better for the environment. From superior resource efficiency and reduced air pollution to fostering renewable energy use, EVs have a range of environmental advantages over ICE vehicles.

Of course, all cars have environmental impacts. And where possible, walking or cycling is always better for the environment. But as we look towards a sustainable future, EVs are not just compelling, they are a critical part of the solution to safe planet.

The fossil fuel industry has a lot to lose from EVs. There are about 15 million petrol fuelled vehicles in Australia. And with petrol prices sitting at over $2 per litre, that's $34,000 per vehicle that the fossil fuel industry stands to miss out on from each car that switches to an EV. No wonder there's so much misinformation. Don't allow yourself to get sucked in. And when you are looking for a new car, explore the growing range of EV options.

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