UK Announces Diesel and Petrol Car Ban: By 2040 When the Production of Any New Petrol or Diesel Cars Will Be Completely Banned. but is an Electric Car Really Green?

Diesel drivers on congested roads in towns and cities across the UK face new pollution taxes under Government plans which will ultimately herald the end of the traditional car. But this ambitious project of phasing out cars as we know will eventually increase the pressure on the power grid manifolds, the UK would need as many as 10 new power stations to cope with the electric revolution.

Electric Car Charging

Are electric cars greener than the traditional car driven by the internal combustion engines?

Yes, of course, an electric car operates without producing emissions like unburnt fuel and CO2, this a single Electric car is green when compared to a traditional car when compared head to head in their operations. But the point is that all Electric Cars need a battery and the battery needs charging, and this power comes from the power grid, which means the power, in the end, is coming from a power station that is in all probability burning fossil fuel to generate the electricity.

"Now imagine the number of new power stations required to power all the new electric cars, does it sound as green as a single Electric car seems to be?" 

However, one might argue that it's much less pollution when the power is generated in a power station instead of being generated in 100 separate internal combustion engines, because steam turbines have higher thermal efficiency than internal combustion engines, and this can produce more electrical energy at a lower consumption of fossil fuel. but even then there is another question that arises.

Is the overall system efficient enough to directly equate with the sum of an equivalent number of the internal combustion engine?

Yes, Internal combustion engines are less thermally efficient than steam turbines, but they are converting the heat energy produced from burning the fuel into motion directly, while for an electrical system, the turbines generate electrical power very efficiently, but then have to transmit it over long distances across the grid, which is not as efficient and results in loss of power, then this reduced power is used to charge batteries, which again is not a very efficient system, and there is loss of charge over time too to be accounted, finally what is very efficient in this entire electrical circuit is using the charged batteries to drive motors. But as we can see, despite certain stages of this cycle being highly efficient, the entire process might not exhibit as much thermodynamic efficient as is expected.

Of course, the operation of a single electric car produces fewer emissions. however, the energy needed to charge all these car batteries must come from new electric power stations, most of which will use thermal energy conversion. Does the overall system produce fewer pollutants? Internal combustion engines are less thermally efficient than steam turbines, but they convert heat from burning directly to motion, while for an electrical system, the turbines have to generate electrical power (very efficient), transmit it over long distances (not so efficient), charge batteries (not so efficient) and finally use charged batteries to drive motors (efficient). Although some of the stages are highly efficient, the overall system may have less thermodynamic efficiency.

The battery producing process is highly polluting too, and then there is the chance of over enthusiasm leading to more pollution, with the assumption that Electric cars are absolutely green, more people will drive more often and thus increasing the load on the Electrical Power Grid manifolds.

So effectively, a fully electrical automobile system may not be greener than a petrol/diesel system.

An alternative would have been Hydrogen driven cars, but current Hydrogen extraction mechanisms are not green either, if the only hydrogen could be produced solely from water commercially, this would have been a possibility.

Until then we are not sure, whether the alternatives we are so gung ho about, are truly what we think they are. The decisions taken and to be taken should not be hasty and populist, and should rather follow further research and analysis to provide us with more data and possibilities first.

Leslie Carr - Scyphus, UK

Reference: "Telsa's new batteries may be harder on the environment than you think", Guardian, UK

Source: Scyphus, UK