Given that around 25-30% of the UK’s CO2 is emitted from travel, electrifying our transport networks is crucial to national targets for achieving net zero emissions. This means a phased switch from the petrol and diesel vehicle technologies which we’ve all become very familiar with over more than a century.

EVs are responsible for considerably lower emissions over their full lifetime, as compared to conventional (internal combustion engine) vehicles. However, while EVs themselves may have zero emissions from the power source while they’re on the road, of course there are still significant environmental impacts from:

  • manufacturing the vehicle, particularly the battery
  • generating power to charge the vehicle, given it runs on electricity which in many parts of the world may still be using fossil fuel sources
  • pollutants from wearing components like tyres and brakes (just as from petrol and diesel cars)

Manufacture of an EV is similar to that of a regular car, requiring many of the same raw materials to be mined, processed and transported during assembly and production. Of course the big difference is the carbon footprint of the lithium-ion battery; producing the batteries for electric cars requires additional resources and energy, particularly as batteries become larger to extend the vehicle range, so EVs may have a larger environmental footprint from the production phase. However depending on the vehicle model and how it’s used, this excess carbon ‘debt’ could be repaid after less than two years of driving.

Once an EV battery is no longer capable of powering a car, so called ‘second-use’ schemes can still reuse the battery for energy storage in the home, workplace or electricity network. Renewable energies such as wind or solar power can all be stored in EV batteries, helping balance out the electricity grid’s supply and demand. If a battery cannot be readily reused, the next alternative is disassembly and recycling, recovering and reusing the battery’s valuable minerals used rather than mining more.

Ultimately EVs are only as green as the electricity that powers them, so it makes sense to charge from renewable energy sources wherever possible. This could mean installing a solar PV array & battery storage at home, switching to a green energy tariff, or looking for public chargepoints powered by renewable energy. Finally EVs significantly reduce air pollution, so are far better for our general health and well-being. Traffic noise along our roads is also hugely reduced.