Zero Emissions: A More Sustainable Future with Electric Vehicles

Global warming is one of the biggest problems facing the world today and we are witnessing its negative consequences every day. Melting glaciers, extreme weather events in all regions of the world, and the associated problems are causing countries, industries and even individuals to think about it. This point that industrialization has brought the world to is no longer sustainable and it is necessary to reduce carbon gas emissions that cause global warming to acceptable levels as soon as possible.

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Internal combustion engines used in transportation are one of the biggest causes of carbon emissions that cause global warming. Approximately 30 percent of total emissions come from internal combustion vehicles using fossil-based fuels such as gasoline and diesel. At the same time, air quality, especially in areas where urbanization is widespread, is seriously affected by this situation.

In addition to renewable energy solutions to reduce carbon emissions that cause global warming, there has been a new momentum in the field of transportation, which is the second largest actor in emissions. In recent years, there has been a major transition towards electric vehicles worldwide. Electric vehicles in different categories such as PHEV, BEV and HEV are increasingly preferred in China, America, Europe and other markets. Apart from end users, vehicle fleets, trucks, industrial vehicles, bus operators are gradually replacing their vehicles with electric alternatives.

One of the biggest advantages of electric vehicles is that they can be operated at lower costs than fossil fuels. Another advantage of electric vehicles is that they use energy efficiently. While some of the energy in internal combustion engines turns into heat and becomes unusable, in electric vehicles, energy is recycled even when the brakes are applied, preventing losses. Along with all these, its positive contribution to global warming is perhaps the most remarkable advantage for everyone. 

But can electric vehicles be considered truly zero-emission? Considering the exhaust gas of BEVs, it is obvious that they do not emit carbon emissions like vehicles with internal combustion engines. On the other hand, it is not correct to make an assessment only by looking at exhaust emissions, because the source of the electricity used for charging and the carbon-based fuels used in the production processes of the vehicles are very effective to the environment.

Coal is still the most intensively used resource for electricity generation worldwide with 36.5 percent. It is followed by natural gas with 22.2 percent, hydroelectricity with 15.3 percent and nuclear energy with 10 percent. Countries have long been turning to sustainable sources such as solar and wind power, but their share of the total pie is still very small. Therefore, when you connect your electric vehicle to the grid and charge it, although you do not cause exhaust emissions, you contribute to the emissions caused by the energy you use.

Another issue is the batteries of electric vehicles. The extraction and processing of lithium, nickel and cobalt used in these lithium-ion-based batteries are very energy-intensive processes. The emissions generated during the production of an electric vehicle battery are 80 percent higher than the emissions recorded in the production of a similar internal combustion vehicle.

On the other hand, many organizations around the world are working intensively on the recycling of batteries and new recycling facilities are being built. Thanks to these efforts, it is aimed to reuse the minerals used in batteries in an environmentally friendly way. Of course, these efforts are still in their infancy and the increasing demand for electric vehicles in recent years is rapidly increasing the need for the minerals used in batteries. Another positive issue related to battery production is the new battery technologies that are widespread in the world and are likely to be more environmentally friendly due to the way they are processed and used. These developments are expected to reduce the high emissions caused by battery production in the near future.

Although the production of electric vehicles causes more emissions with batteries being at the forefront, we can say that electric vehicles generally cause less carbon emissions when the total life cycle is taken into account. DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) data shows that on a yearly basis, a typical electric vehicle emits 1780 kg of CO2, while plugin hybrid vehicles emit 2620 kg and hybrid vehicles emit 2840 kg. However, if we look at the CO2 emissions caused by internal combustion vehicles, we encounter a very high value of 5190 kg. As a result, although electric vehicles seem to be at a disadvantage during the production phase, they close the gap with their low emissions during use. Of course, thanks to the increase in renewable energy sources over time, positive developments in the production of batteries, and more efficient use of energy by electric vehicles, we will approach the zero emission target in transportation, although not in the near future. More and more countries and organizations are taking steps towards this goal and smiling with the dream of a sustainable future.

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