Did you know that driving can be green? Electric cars are better for you and for the planet as they emit fewer greenhouse gases and don’t pollute the air. So why not make the switch from diesel or petrol to electric?
There can be many reasons to change the way you drive, but first let’s check the facts.
Myth 1: They’re too expensive for me
FALSE. According to recent research, electric cars and vans will be cheaper to make than petrol and diesel vehicles across Europe from 2027 at the latest. This is due to falling battery costs and electric vehicle production lines being developed by car manufacturers.
What’s more, as electric cars have fewer moving parts than a traditional engine, their maintenance costs can be lower. Other costs vary according to where you are, but you can generally save on fuel costs and get helpful tax breaks. In Belgium, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Latvia and Portugal, among others, electric vehicles are fully exempt from registration tax. And some countries, such as Norway, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Sweden, even offer free parking for electric vehicles.
In a recent survey, more than 90% of electric car owners said they would not replace their vehicle with a petrol or diesel car.
Myth 2: The battery runs out fast
FALSE. Most people drive under 40 km a day – a distance that is way under the 200 to 490 km range possible in today’s electric cars. Once you’re back home, you can plug your car in and charge it overnight, ready for the next day.
And if you’re thinking about taking a long trip, there’s no need to leave your electric car at home as the network of public chargers is rapidly growing – they can easily be located through the European Alternative Fuel Observatory’s charging point map, and through other maps like Open Charge and PlugShare. By the end of 2020, there were over 200 000 public charging points across the EU, and counting – by 2030, the EU aims to install 3 million of them.
In early 2021, the first battery capable of giving a 320 km charge in 5 minutes was produced, making it possible to charge your electric car in roughly the same amount of time as it takes to fill up a full tank of petrol or diesel.
“’Range anxiety’ – the fear that your battery will run out – is probably more perceived by those who are still considering buying an electric vehicle, rather than by actual electric vehicle users,” says Gonçalo Castelo Branco, Director of Smart Mobility at Portuguese energy company, EDP. EDP have made a Climate Pact pledge to reduce their emissions and set renewable energy targets. “Once you drive an electric vehicle, you can easily adapt to new habits, including charging your battery – you do it mainly at home or work while the car is parked.”
Myth 3: Electric cars emit CO2 and pollute just like conventional cars
FALSE. Across Europe, CO2 emissions from electric cars are around three times lower than those from petrol or diesel equivalents over their lifetime. Why are they not 100% lower? Because we still use fossil fuels to produce electricity and power the batteries – but change is coming. In many European countries, renewables like wind and solar are becoming more and more integrated into electricity grids. They account for 56.4% of all energy in Sweden, 43% in Finland, and 41% in Latvia. In 2019, for the first time, more power in the EU was generated by wind and solar than by coal.
What’s more, this trend is set to increase: by 2030, the EU aims to have 40% of all energy across its territory produced from renewable sources.
Electric cars also generate some emissions during their manufacturing process, mainly linked to battery production. However, it’s estimated that in under two years of driving, some models will be saving more carbon than it took to manufacture the vehicles.
And what about air pollution? Fully electric vehicles don’t generate any as they don’t emit the nitrogen oxides, particle pollution or carbon monoxide that comes out of a petrol or diesel car’s exhaust pipe as a by-product of burning fossil fuels. Also, the lack of a traditional fossil fuel-powered engine means that electric vehicles run much more quietly – reducing the noise pollution caused by traffic.
Myth 4: They’re responsible for the increased mining of natural resources – and their batteries create waste
FALSE. Concerns have been raised about the mining of materials like cobalt used in electric car batteries. It’s true that batteries do need a small quantity of cobalt, but they then have a lifespan of at least 10 years and can be recharged many times throughout this period. On the other hand, 10 years of driving a combustion engine burns around 10 000 litres of oil, which is also mined from the ground and seabed.
And change is coming. In December 2020 the European Commission outlined plans for a battery law which would ensure that materials for batteries are sourced ethically and sustainably in the future.
There’s also a second life for electric vehicle batteries. They can be recycled through new and developing technological processes, recovering up to 100% of the lithium used in the battery. It’s also possible to repurpose the batteries. Although it may not be suitable for use in a car, a ‘dead’ battery will still have up to 70% of its storage capacity left – making it ideal to store renewable energy.
Myth 5: There’s a lack of public support for the change
FALSE. Many people are behind the shift towards electric – while car sales in general slumped during the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for electric vehicles actually rose, accounting for 10% of all sales in Europe. More electric vehicles than diesel cars were registered in Germany in the first half of 2021.
“We are on the verge of a major transformation. The pandemic has tested our flexibility and our habits, and challenged us to reinvent the future of mobility,” says Castelo Branco.
A recent poll showed that almost two-thirds of people living in cities support banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in Europe after 2030. The European Commission aims to make this a reality – calling for all new cars registered in the EU to be climate neutral (zero emissions) by 2035, and marking the beginning of the end for the fossil fuel-powered vehicle.
The truth is that driving electric is becoming convenient and more and more affordable. Not only this, but it will also help us make Europe climate-neutral by 2050. If you’re ready to cast the myths aside, why not step up a gear and take a Climate Pact pledge to swap your petrol or diesel car for an electric alternative?
Of course, electric cars are only part of the solution. We can also take other steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our carbon footprint – including using our cars less, choosing public transport, and biking or walking instead. Often it is feasible – it’s just a matter of changing our mindsets and making small adjustments to our daily routines. If many of us join in, it can become a real game-changer – not just for the planet, but also for our own health and wellbeing.
- 19 November 2021