Why Electric Vehicles Won’t Save Us

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Tesla Motors is without a doubt the most ambitious automaker today. We’ve seen it rise from nothing and become one of the most discussed companies in the past decade. With its mission to bring electric cars to the mass market, the company is hoping to ensure the success of sustainable transport on a global scale. But will such ambition be enough to bring even the slightest change to the environment?

Even though Bloomberg predicted the success of electric vehicles to be certain within the next ten years, there is some doubt as to whether this would be of any relevance to climate change and environment protection.

The main idea behind the usage of electric vehicles was to find an alternative to the high levels of vehicle carbon emissions. It is true that electric vehicles offer a real advantage in reducing the dangerous nitrogen oxide and particulate matter in urban areas. But does that make EVs the greener option?

The way we produce energy matters more than the way we consume it.

Experts consider electric vehicles to be a hoax because automakers in the field neglect the high levels of energy and electricity used in the upstream activities. The manufacturing processes behind each vehicle require even more energy than the production of conventional vehicles. The production of batteries, no matter the cost, and the establishment of charging networks are said to have higher impact on the atmosphere than the already established processes behind vehicles with combustion engines. Hence, one would say that the wasted resources in the production compensates for the saved exhaustion during driving.

It seems like EVs do not lead to greener choices – instead they simply move the fossil-fuel combustion that used to be associated with driving to other, less obvious to the final consumer processes.

These facts do not remain hidden to people who have familiarized themselves with the entire process behind EV production and distribution. There are claims that countries like Norway and the USA might soon be stopping their subsidies for electric cars exactly because of this hoax around the positive impact they have on the world around us.

Another problem usually associated with car usage is the prolonged inactivity of vehicles.

Studies show that a car that is used for 50 minutes a day remains unused for over 95% of the time. More people keep buying more cars, especially in areas where distances are long and public transport is not well developed. So far the mass usage of electric vehicles does not solve this problem. Thus, the resources used for the creation of the 350,000 units of Tesla’s Model 3 would only add up to the damages we do to the environment without an equivalent benefit.

Experts say the efforts of the auto industry to push EVs have fallen far short of expectations. Tesla Motors aside all other companies have achieved little improvement in the development of their own vehicles. Based on this forecasts for the penetration rate of EVs has not improved much in the past years. On the contrary, while percentage rates were predicted to be between 5 and 10 percent several years ago, now experts hope for as low as one percent on a global level.

Despite the recent decrease in the production cost of EV batteries, the overall price for battery cars will remain pricey at least for the next decades. Moreover, electric vehicles require a hugely expensive network of charging stations in order to make longer trips even remotely feasible. The investments that need to be made seem to be rather irrational once you consider the enormous amounts of energy and electricity that the infrastructure requires.

Apparently, Toyota has found the solution to these issues.

According to the Japanese engineers, the future of sustainability is in hydrogen cars, not in electric ones. They believe that owners of electric cars are doomed to long overnight charges and short trips during the day. Yoshikazu Tanaka, one of Toyota’s engineers, is strictly against the rapid charge option too. He states that the rapid charge is a complete misuse of energy – a 12-minute rapid charge uses enough electricity to power 1,000 homes. So not only does the electric car come as burden and not as convenience, but it also does the exact opposite it was meant to – it doesn’t protect the environment. On the contrary, it is yet another creation that wastes nature’s resources. This statement, of course, can always be battled by the fact that hydrogen also needs electricity to be extracted from other elements to get to a suitable for use form.

Tesla’s Role

Undoubtedly, Tesla Motors is the leader in the race for EV production. The company has had huge success in popularizing the idea of sustainable transport and the concept of electric vehicles. A sign of success is the price of stocks – Tesla’s stock price increased four times in value in the past three years. But did this increase have anything to do with the company’s mission for sustainability?

Numerous experts claim that Tesla’s results so far were nowhere near successful. They say the popularity of the brand is “hype” among auto enthusiasts with no promise for long-term effects on the industry. Tesla’s success was due to the high performance of the car rather than to its electric power, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said. According to him, Tesla’s Model S became an attraction not because of its contribution to sustainable transport, but because of its appealing features and design. That’s why experts often consider the company a failure. The company loses money every year and the reasons for the widespread discussion about the brand have nothing to do with its mission to save the planet.

The Future of Sustainability

If we can’t rely on the future success of the current leader in the market for electric vehicles, could we say that sustainable transport is a lost cause?

The opinions among experts will continue to vary just like it has always been with any innovation. What is important to keep in mind is that it is the final consumer that decides whether to accept the innovation. Once nobody thought people would want to listen to a voice coming out of a box either, but here we are, centuries later, still listening to the radio every day in our cars. The question is – will these cars now be electric ones?

The goal is to have more people get closer to the experiences associated with owning and driving an electric vehicle. It’s hard to explain the benefits if they haven’t experienced and understood the process. This way they will be able to decide for themselves whether the benefits are truly worth it.

It is crucial to remember that we shouldn’t turn EVs into panacea for sustainable transport. This is only one possible path. Even if we choose to follow it however, the impact of electric vehicles on the planet will remain a duty in the hands of each consumer much longer after the purchase of the car. The choices we make about how often we drive our EVs, on what mode we charge them, and how many people we share a ride with, will lead to the ultimate impact in our lives and the environment.

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About the Author:

Dilyana Dobrinova is a nature & travel enthusiast. With a heart for books, scarves and vintage. She runs a brand consulting agency, while also running 10Ks between meetings. Dilyana holds an M.A. in International Marketing Management from the Berlin School of Economics and Law in Germany, and two B.As. in Journalism & Mass Communication and in Business Administration from AUBG.
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