• Question: Normal cars use fuel and cause global warming but power is also used from power stations (which cause global warming) for electrical cars.So either way it's releasing gases to bring aboutglobal warming. So where's the progress in saving the environment?

    Asked by AkuaN on 23 Oct 2021.
    • Photo: Paul Adams

      Paul Adams answered on 5 Oct 2021:


      Its a really good question Akua. 42% of the UK energy production now comes from renewable sources such as wind farms. Compare that to 2000 when it was approximately 75%, and 1980 when it was more than 90%.
      So the shift is definitely in progress. There is still a long way to go but it is moving in the right direction. If you pair that statistic with the increasing number of EVs on the road then the net movement is favourable.

    • Photo: Robert Astbury

      Robert Astbury answered on 5 Oct 2021:


      Power from the grid is getting Greener every year, currently at 43% renewable in UK, and even if it is from fossil fuels; each Kw of energy is produced far more efficently than any internal combustion engine, meaning lower CO2 emissions per mile. plus the lower cost of ownership of an EV due to less moving parts means they will last longer and be better for the environment that thier ICE car equivalents.

    • Photo: Rohin Titmarsh

      Rohin Titmarsh answered on 5 Oct 2021:


      When the electricity used by electric vehicles has been generated using renewable technologies, like wind, solar, tidal, geothermal etc then the process is much more environmentally friendly. Electric vehicles have an emissions break even point so this helps lower that. But the same considerations also apply to the manufacturing of the vehicle. If the electricity required to power the factory has also been generated through renewable means, its even better! And some companies are trying to do this by putting solar panels on the roof of their factories for example.

    • Photo: Beatrice Browning

      Beatrice Browning answered on 5 Oct 2021:


      Great point! Based on figures presented by the U.K. government (published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy):

      In 2020, the proportion of fossil fuels used to power the UK was only 37.7% which is a record for UK energy production.

      As the years go by, the proportion of renewables powering the UK is increasing (in 2019 only 37% of power was from renewables, where as in 2020 43% of energy produced was by renewable energy resources, mainly from wind solar and biogas).

      This increase means that the electricity supplied to EVs is far more likely to be from renewables in years to come, whereas for diesel engines, there will always be harmful waste emissions produces from the combustion of diesel! There is most definitely progress to be made, but things are getting better !

    • Photo: Natasha Marchant

      Natasha Marchant answered on 5 Oct 2021:


      You are right, some electricity does still come from fossil fuels which cause global warming but we are moving towards more renewable energy as the other scientists have said! The hope is that we will be able to have 100% renewable energy and then there will be no gases released from the electricity generation and also none released from the electric vehicles which means we will be protecting the environment! We also have to think about the manufacture of batteries too as this uses energy, many companies though are planning on using 100% renewable energy for their manufacturing plants! At JM where I work, we are currently building 2 battery material manufacturing plants which will be run on 100% renewable energy so that our impact on the planet is lower. As scientists, we see the importance of trying to make batteries in a way that is as environmentally friendly as possible!

    • Photo: Ferran Brosa Planella

      Ferran Brosa Planella answered on 5 Oct 2021:


      You point out a very good question here: electric vehicles are only as clean as the energy we use to charge them. So if we want to have a real impact we do not just want to use more electric vehicles but also use cleaner energy sources.

    • Photo: Michael Hills

      Michael Hills answered on 6 Oct 2021:


      Everything the other scientists have said are amazing points and are some of the most important parts in why electric cars are the way forward.
      There is also the concern around sourcing metals and resources for electric cars with some of the metals being rare on earth and being dug up in poor conditions or will be dug until all used up. That’s why it is going to be so important to begin recycling of used batteries to reclaim materials and to stop continually extracting from the planet.
      As we become better at making batteries we will hopefully eliminate the need for many of rarer metals or we will rely on recycled materials as a larger source.

    • Photo: Chris Muir

      Chris Muir answered on 6 Oct 2021:


      This is a great question and the subject of a lot of misinformation and misdirection in the media, pub, and social networks. I think as scientists/engineers we’re all helping to show the truth here, but there are a lot of great resources on youtube which go into much better detail and explain it to a really high standard.

      Here’s my approach…

      If we changed every end use from fossil fuels, and ran EVERYTHING off the national grid, that’s the extreme end of the argument. This would then concentrate electricity generation to power stations and renewable sites. Concentrating this process would lead to higher efficiencies – a bigger power plant is more efficient than a smaller one.

      Conversely if everyone had to generate electricity at the end use site (in a car, at home, on a train), all of those individual engines / combustion units, would be far less efficient.

      That’s a simplistic argument though. With larger demand, it’s easier to incorporate renewables (solar, wind, tidal, even nuclear) into electricity production, further reducing environmental impact.

      So from the above two points, you could see there would be a benefit in hugely reducing fossil fuel usage, therefore reducing harmful particulates at the end user’s site, whilst also reducing total particulate and Greenhouse gas production.

      To layer on top of that argument, you then need to consider the total environmental impact. How much energy, effort, and environment damage is caused by making these systems – bigger power plants, more cars, electric car batteries, batteries for homes etc etc.

      At the moment, it’s not clear how much the improvement is as analysing everything is too big a job, but it’s certainly better than the alternative – continuing as we are, increasing consumption and making the problem worse.

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