How E-Mobility Technology Drives Improvements in Sustainability
The issues of sustainability in the automotive industry have become increasingly important in recent years, with growing scrutiny being heaped upon manufacturers and consumers alike, especially following the VW emissions scandal and the attention earned by climate campaigners.
Most agree the answer to many of the issues facing automakers at the moment lies with e-mobility. But how is this technology encouraging a more sustainable approach to motoring?
The eco-friendliness of mechanical simplicity
When looking at the carbon footprint of a typical vehicle, there are a multitude of calculations to consider above and beyond the basic miles per gallon rating, it boasts or the proportion of harmful particulates which it emits. Each car, van and truck represent the cumulative efforts of several different industries, from the mining of the raw materials used to make the bodywork and chassis to the construction of the circuitry and components required to make everything work in unison.
The engine itself is, without doubt, the most complex aspect of any petrol or diesel-powered vehicle. Pistons, spark plugs, valves, rods, crankshafts, timing chains and other elements make up the core, while essential accompaniments such as radiators and exhaust systems are required on top of all this.
Even the most efficient modern engines still have hundreds of moving parts and are thus complex to build as well as to maintain. Furthermore, if one component is compromised due to direct damage, a fault or wear and tear over time, repairs are time consuming, costly and often impossible to complete.
All of this adds up to make combustion engines an environmental burden from several perspectives. Then when they come to the end of their usable lives, this complexity creates further challenges as recycling becomes labour intensive.
Conversely, the e-mobility market benefits from a far simpler approach to putting power through the wheels. In the most basic yet effective electric vehicles (EVs), the only two aspects of the drive train that have any complexity are the electric motor and the battery which powers it.
By minimising the moving parts involved in pushing power through to the wheels and using common materials, e-mobility manufacturers can dramatically improve the durability and longevity of their products, while in turn also making them far more sustainable from a maintenance perspective. If something goes wrong it is simple to address, although with a much lower likelihood of faults developing, electric vehicles are naturally more reliable and ecologically sound in one fell swoop.
Sustainability through circularity
While touched upon briefly a little earlier, it is necessary to discuss in more detail the idea that electric vehicles are more sustainable than incumbent equivalents throughout their life cycle, not just while they are out on the road.
The recyclability of components used in the construction of electric vehicles is significant since it is only through making an industry truly circular that sustainability is achievable.
Extensive planning is ongoing at the moment to account for the anticipated increase in electric car sales, which will in time lead to a greater need for appropriate recycling infrastructure to be put in place. This is not just important for the early adopters of the technology but also for the likelihood of its mainstream growth, especially as gas-guzzling vehicles will eventually be outlawed in many countries.
Recycling of electric batteries
There are still questions that need to be answered with regards to recycling electric vehicle batteries in particular, since current techniques do not allow for all of the valuable materials present within them to be reclaimed for reuse. Even so, manufacturers are being pushed by regulators to take responsibility for handling electric vehicle battery recycling, which as the e-mobility industry grows should help to generate sensible solutions and take pressure off end users.
Adopting a closed loop approach to e-mobility battery production, use and recycling is something that firms like Tesla have already committed to, so there is a willingness to see this through in several spheres.
Undeniable emissions advantages
It would be impossible to talk about the sustainability of e-mobility without mentioning emissions, even if this is a more nebulous concept that has a far-reaching influence in a plethora of areas.
Fully electric vehicles and even hybrids can reduce or eliminate harmful emissions while they are being driven. Furthermore, if a battery powered vehicle is recharged using electricity from a renewable source, such as wind or solar power, then it will be possible to use it without any kind of cost to the environment.
Meanwhile, a standard combustion engine will not only output a variety of fumes and particulates that compromise ecosystems and damage health but also require fuel that has to be imported from overseas and delivered at a great environmental, political and social cost.
It is not just passenger cars that are being adopted as part of the e-mobility revolution, as commercial vehicles with hybrid or fully electric power trains are hitting roads at the moment. This is allowing global transport to become more sustainable, creating a brighter, greener future for everyone.
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