EVs are only going to get cleaner, while gas cars will always add to pollution.
Con: It has a negative effect on the environment
Despite reducing carbon footprints and tailpipe emissions, EV batteries still do unfortunately contribute to the emission of toxic fumes. The electricity used by EVs is also often generated from non-renewable energy sources, which has a negative indirect effect on the environment. There is also the growing strain on electricity grids, due to an increase in EV popularity. However, electricity suppliers are moving towards using more renewable resources which will eventually reduce the issue and make EVs an even better choice.
Non-renewable resources are also being used to make the batteries such as cobalt, which can produce hazardous tailings and seep into the environment, leading to nearby communities coming into contact with those dangerous materials. There is also significant concern about the amount of ewaste EVs will create when they reach the end of their life. However, there is promising research that is the start of recycling EV batteries in order to reduce environmental harm. An MIT study last year found that EV batteries have the potential to be used as backup storage for solar power.
Pro: It’s the beginning of an eco-friendlier car industry
While the car industry has historically been a large contributor towards pollution and carbon emissions, things are beginning to change. Government interventions with deals such as The European Green Deal and The Paris Agreement are forcing automotive companies to look into ways to become more carbon neutral. EVs are a large part of that and are leading the way for carmakers as they ‘go green’ and make more sustainable choices. It’s a small step, but it’s one that could have a huge impact down the road (pun intended), especially when you think about how integral cars are and how transportation will never, ever stop being needed.
Con: Labor and human rights exploitation
Recently, the Guardian reported on the Erin Brockovich pollutant - hexavalent chromium (Cr6) – having contaminated local water sources in the Indonesian village Kawasi, where one of the largest nickel mines resides. With the EV industry booming, nickel, which is a key component in most EV batteries, is in high demand. Despite the mine insisting that the water is not contaminated, the local hospital has reported a surge in ARI cases, with over 900 patients being treated in a village of 4,000. Half of those cases are in toddlers and infants.
Cobalt, a key component in many EV batteries, has also created a set of problems. In 2020, 70% of the world’s cobalt came from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A report by UK based corporate watchdog Raid and Congolese lawyers revealed that many multinational mining companies working in the DRC keep their workers in poverty and offer poorly paid jobs. In some mines, wages as low as 30p an hour exist, alongside a host of other issues such as no contracts and meager food rations. With cobalt sales expected to rise exponentially in the coming decade, addressing the ongoing exploitation is an urgent need.
As with so many industries, the exploitation of labor and endangering of human rights is a huge issue. Of course, this is not limited to the EV industry. In 2016 it was found that carmakers had links to illegal mines in India that were benefiting from child labor and debt bondage.
Pro: More efficient with energy
Charging an EV’s battery is also more efficient in terms of energy, with EV batteries converting 59 to 62% of energy into vehicle movement. In comparison, gas cars only convert 17 to 21% which shows how an EVs battery puts more energy towards powering the car than filling up from a gas pump.
Con: Charging takes longer than filling a tank
While we’re on the topic of charging, we should also discuss the length of time it takes to charge an electric car. Undeniably, gas powered cars win in this area. While charging is getting faster, with some charging stations only needing 30 minutes to get an EV to 80 percent capacity if you have a compatible vehicle, there’s no doubt that it can become wearisome always having to factor in the time it will take for your EV to charge while on long road trips. A Level 1 charger – which is the slowest kind – can take up to 24 hours to fully charge your EV, so if you’re driving a lot and don’t have the time to leave your car charging overnight, this can become a bit of a pain.
However, EVs are often technologically superior to their gas counterparts, with option to watch Netflix in your Tesla as you wait for your car to recharge. It’s a simple pleasure, but a good one nonetheless, especially if you get bored while waiting.
Pro: Low maintenance
Because EVs are fully electric, there’s no whiny engine in need of an oil change. An EV’s brakes won’t wear down as quickly either, thanks to regenerative braking. The electric power can also make for a more fun driving experience, because EV motors react quicker and provide instant torque.