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Electric vehicles: Will they fix any problems?

 

Electric mobility offers a tremendous advantage in all impact categories that might be considered.

For a number of years there has been news indicating that our mobility model is becoming obsolete. They all relate to the serious ramifications of using energy resources, pollution in towns and cities and people's health.

The scandal in how various car manufacturers - not just VW - have tampered with emissions; the shameful permissiveness of the European Parliament, raising the limits on unit emissions, when they have been trying to reduce them for decades, the emission limits set by Directives repeatedly being exceeded in many European cities, the lack of dynamism of the sector's leading manufacturers compared to the innovations of those that have recently emerged –such as Tesla– etc.; all of this reminds us of a similar scenario that occurred decades ago in the industrial world, with image and communications, when disruptive digital technologies emerged.

We can tell that the current scenario is in an even more confused state by the misguided forecasts by one ministry or another and the confusion about the possibilities and impacts of the newlyemerged electric mobility. An example of this can be found in one of the interesting "la Contra" interviews (La Vanguardia 09/10/13) with Stephen Emmott, a renowned researcher who is critical of the current economic system and somewhat apocalyptic about the current environmental situation, where he categorically stated that "electric vehicles don't solve anything, they just transfer the problem from the exhaust pipe to the power plant chimney".


The combination of photovoltaic canopies and EV charging systems, helping you to foster the huge energy, environmental and mobility opportunities presented by EVs.


Without wanting to question his expertise, and also agreeing with much of analysis, we chose this opinion because it is typical of the general confusion about electric vehicles (VE) and the changes to mobility that their introduction will lead to. Such misinformation covers at least three different aspects: with regard to the implications of energy efficiency, the possibility of generating electricity using numerous sources and technologies and the reduced environmental impact inherent in reinventing mobility with these new EVs.

Current internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) are simply highly sophisticated thermal machines inside a casing that may or may not be to your taste. They all have an efficiency of around 30% (of every 100 units of energy, we only use 30, the rest becomes degraded energy and pollution); while the new EVs have an efficiency of more than 80%, which shows that, in order to achieve the same result –transporting people or goods– we will waste more resources and have a far greater environmental impact if we continue as we have to date with ICEs.


Reinventing mobility has far-reaching energy, economic, social and environmental implications.


The opinion that this technological change will only shift the problem from the exhaust pipe to the chimney of a power plant, ignores the fact that it is one thing to control hundreds of thousands of exhaust pipes subject to the arbitrary actions of each driver in the middle of crowded cities and roads and quite another to control a small number of large point sources, far from the cities and with modern anti-pollution systems. In the current context, we also cannot accept that electricity generation has to be associated with certain ways of generating electricity with fossil resources or radioactive materials, when it is clear that wind power has no chimney and photovoltaic generation does not even make any noise.


Installing only 2.5 kWp of photovoltaic panels generates the electricity that would be consumed by an EV that is driven over 10,000 km per year.


The above points are only for clarification purposes, we are now in a scenario where, despite the fact that ICEs will continue to dominate mobility and the market in the coming years, the electrification and hybridisation of vehicles, in all ranges, will advance at an unstoppable rate, even if some representatives from the old automotive industry feel threatened by the emergence of EVs, when the smartest thing to do would be to come together and benefit from the huge energy, environmental and mobility opportunities that they present.

Electric vehicles: Will they fix any problems?For most people, EVs are still a great unknown. Besides the crisis, the biggest problem today is not the cost of buying a vehicle, as there is a wide range of vehicles, prices and features. The problems are the growing running costs with fuel, the taxes and fees, the high costs in repairs, maintenance, parking etc. which, altogether, make up all of the hidden costs increasingly levied on anyone who owns an ICE.

However, although the emergence of electric vehicles is no panacea to fix the numerous energy/environmental problems that threaten our way of life, it does represent an opportunity to mitigate and reduce many of the known impacts of "fossil mobility". In the absence of any rigorous life cycle analyses comparing ICEs with EVs, and given the high efficiency of the latter, it seems clear that implementing electric mobility offers a tremendous advantage in all impact categories that might be considered.

Over the coming years there will be an increase in the range of makes and models of new EVs, with better performance and the anticipated reduction in prices. There are currently only two limitations to EVs: the high initial purchase price and their limited range (originally around 100 km, this is now being doubled in new EVs). Their supposed shortcomings and issues with charging can now be considered nothing more than urban legends.

In the immediate future, the crucial point where clarification is required relates to the new lithium-ion batteries (their charge cycles, life, replacement, second life and value). Despite their temporary nature and the fact that some regard the technology and materials as transitional, with a few minor tweaks they could be with us for a relatively long time to come. Especially bearing in mind that all of the miracle products that are regularly announced as the ultimate solution for energy storage are nothing more than speculation, with varying degrees of success.


We are strongly in favour of the development of EVs and their charging infrastructures and, although our country seems to be lagging behind, as this is a global phenomenon, no rules or barriers from the world of fossil fuel vehicles will be able to stop it. Reinventing mobility has far-reaching energy, economic, social and environmental implications. The key issue is whether we want to be actors or merely passive spectators


 

  More information: Smart electric vehicle charging system
 

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