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Is it time to review Electric Vehicles policy? Technology in docs for heavy environment cost

Study reveal Electric Vehicles emit 15-50 percent more greenhouse gases across various categories compared to conventional ICE-powered vehicles. 

While the world shifts to Electric Vehicles (EVs) and their sale rising with every passing month, the debate on their actual environmental benefit has picked pace. While several studies contradict the claims EVs are environment-friendly, the recent joint study conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur and a Japan-based organization has shed new light on the topic, claiming that EVs are more harmful than conventional and hybrid cars. While the no-emission aspect of EVs is promoted as a major benefit to the environment, the research raises questions on the coal-powered electricity production plants and their impact.

Research on electric vehicles

Professor Avinash Agarwal from IIT Kanpur, one of the co-authors of the study, Comparison of Economic Viability of Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles Based on Total Cost of Ownership Analysis, emphasizes that while BEVs may appear more environmentally friendly during regular commutes due to zero emissions, their manufacturing process takes a substantial toll on the environment. The researchers have also undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the environmental impact and cost-effectiveness of different vehicle categories. The study aimed to evaluate the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of vehicles, with a particular focus on Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), Hybrid-Electric Vehicles (HEVs), and conventional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars.

Research findings contradict common belief

Contrary to popular belief, the study revealed BEVs emit 15-50 percent more greenhouse gases across various categories compared to conventional ICE-powered vehicles. The primary contributor to this discrepancy is the source of electricity used to charge BEVs. India heavily relies on coal-based power generation, which significantly contributes to CO2 emissions. Consequently, charging BEVs with electricity sourced from coal-fired power plants undermines their environmental benefits during the manufacturing, use, and scrapping phases.

The study also unveiled that BEVs can be 15-60 percent more expensive to operate per kilometer, considering factors such as long-term costs, purchase, insurance, and maintenance. While the government actively promotes BEVs through tax incentives and other benefits to consumers, their higher overall costs should not be overlooked. The study argues that a more comprehensive evaluation of the environmental impact and cost-effectiveness is necessary to make informed decisions about promoting sustainable transportation options.

Similar claims by US research

The authors of An Analysis of the Environmental Impact of Electric Vehicles, published in Missouri S&T’s Peer to Peer in 2017, raise similar points in this direction. According to the paper, fully electric vehicles are often promoted for their zero tailpipe emissions. However, this claim overlooks the emissions generated during the energy production used to charge these vehicles. The source of energy and its associated emissions play a crucial role in the overall environmental impact of electric vehicles. It is imperative to consider both the energy generation and the emissions produced during its production when discussing the sustainability of electric vehicles. Focusing solely on tailpipe emissions presents an incomplete picture and neglects a critical aspect of the electric vehicle discussion.

Type of power plants decides efficiency of EV

A recent study conducted by Stephen Holland and colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro highlights that the environmental impact of electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States varies based on regional electricity generation sources. While EVs are generally less harmful to the global climate compared to petrol-powered vehicles, the study reveals a significant difference in environmental benefits across the country. In regions like the western United States, where clean energy sources dominate electricity generation, EVs produce less air pollution. However, in the Midwest, where coal-fired power plants play a prominent role in electricity production, EVs contribute more to air pollution than petrol-powered cars. These findings emphasize the importance of considering regional electricity generation sources when assessing the overall environmental impact of EVs. It underscores the need for continued efforts to transition to cleaner energy sources nationwide to maximize the environmental benefits of electric vehicles.

These studies shed light on the complexities of evaluating the environmental impact and cost-effectiveness of different vehicle categories. Although BEVs are currently promoted as the most environmentally friendly option, as per the studies, their emissions can be higher than conventional ICE vehicles due to the source of electricity. Also, BEVs tend to be more expensive to operate. The IIT study, however, urges a comprehensive evaluation of environmental impact and cost-effectiveness to inform sustainable transportation decisions.

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