Electric Vehicles And Their Effect On Society

1646 words (7 pages) Essay in Environmental Sciences

18/05/17 Environmental Sciences Reference this

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With the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer and the shortage of our oil supply becoming an issue, we have had to look at alternative fueled vehicles that will not harm the environment, but will still provide us with a reliable source of transportation.

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Compared to gasoline powered vehicles, electric vehicles are considered to be 97 percent cleaner, producing absolutely no tailpipe emissions that can place particulate matter into the air. Particulate matter can increase asthma conditions, as well as irritate respiratory systems. Because Electric Vehicles produce no emissions, there are no requirements for Electric Vehicle owners to ever take in their vehicle to an Emissions Testing Facility for an emissions inspection. Another factor that makes these vehicles so clean is that since they don’t use half of the parts that a gasoline powered vehicle does (including gasoline and oil), they are not at risk of shedding any worn out radiator hoses, fuel filters, etc, to be dumped in our over crowded landfills, and leaking contaminated oil into our water supply, killing plant and animal life. Exceptionally quiet, Electric Vehicles produce no noise pollution. In fact they are so quiet that manufacturers are thinking that Electric Vehicles may one day require some kind of noise device on them to alert pedestrians that they are within the area.

In a gasoline powered vehicle, the then engine must be kept running even when the vehicle is idle. When an Electric Vehicle is idle, the electric motor is not running and the vehicle is not using any energy. On hot days, a few hundred gas-powered cars sitting on the freeway produce an unimaginable amount of pollution. Electric Vehicles can run during hot days, cold days, at night, and can accelerate or remain idle and not produce any pollution. Many people claim that Electric Vehicles merely relocate the source of pollution to the power plants. Even though Electric Vehicles produce no tailpipe emissions, they still need electricity to be recharged, which means they need power plants to produce the electricity. These people fail to realize, however, that many modern power plants (especially in states like California) are “clean”, meaning they produce no pollution. Examples of “clean” power plants include nuclear reactors, windmills, hydroelectric plants and solar panels. Also, it is much easier to deal with isolated pollution sources such as power plants than it is to deal with millions of automobiles, each a source of pollution. As more and more power plants become “clean” and as more people realize what Electric Vehicles can do for the environment, Electric Vehicle use will increase, and our environment will become much nicer.

Electric cars have been thought of as one answer to our dependence on fossil fuel burning vehicles. Their main appeal is that they produce no air pollution at the point of use so provide a way of shifting emissions to less polluted areas. Unfortunately also “out of sight” are the environmental consequences of manufacturing and recycling the lead- acid batteries electric vehicles require to run on. A recent drew attention to the problem of lead batteries in electric cars: “Smelting and recycling the lead for these batteries will result in substantial releases of lead to the environment”. The researchers compared the power, efficiency and environmental effects of electric cars with gas powered vehicles. Not only are electric cars comparatively slower and far more restricted in the distance they can travel but release more lead into the environment as well. The study showed that an electric car with batteries made from newly mined lead releases 60 times more lead than that of a car using leaded gas. Although the lead discharged in lead smelting and reprocessing is generally less available to humans in the U.S. than that dispersed by leaded gasoline cars driving where people are still using leaded gasoline. Even when precautions are taken there are still significant hazards. Lead processing facilities release lead into the air and waterways, and lead in solid waste leaches slowly into the environment. Clearly electric cars, despite their “good for the environment” image create far more of a problem than leaded gas cars and unleaded gas cars. In addition if a large number of electric cars are produced, the demand for lead for batteries will surge, requiring more lead to be mined. Manufacture needs to be halted until an alternative safer power source is found. These rules out current alternatives such as nickel-cadmium and nickel metal hydride batteries which are also highly toxic and far more expensive. Researchers speculate that lithium-polymer technologies may eventually be used.

Should cities with a population in excess on 5 million such as LA, New York or Mexico city, which suffer from the adverse effects of smog, implement an electric car society, or a car tax by 2009 or would these measures be too costly to execute and burdensome for the average citizen. The creation of an electric car city would be a grueling task indeed. For it follows that the car in many countries is ubiquitous. A cultural symbol that is deeply embedded in the world’s psyche from the day it was created. To some it seems as though it is an impossible task, that we replace so many cars or that we limit the number of cars in the populated areas Although many argue that it is the car that contributes to the blight on this earth, spewing it’s pollutants into the air, and that a society without them would be a better one. The nature of today’s world and in today’s modern cities demands that we have a form of fast transportation. We would not function at all without it and walking, while it would make us all healthier, would consume too much of our time. I feel that if carefully planned and thought out, we needn’t get rid of one without having to lose the benefit of the other.

It is felt by many that the cause of urban pollution is as a result of too many cars. The poor design of many cities with regard to transportation has caused urban congestion. Consider of course the fact that many cars right now in cities are running but not moving. For example, in New York City, trying to find a parking space is both a cause and symptom of poor urban design. Clearly when there is not enough space in the city to house all of our cars, when parking space is considered a rare commodity then we have a problem. But in other cases such as Mexico City or Los Angeles the problem of poor urban design is even worse. Clearly when these cities were built the planners did not foresee the large number of gasoline chugging vehicles that would clog them. In addition there are various health problems that are suffered by urban dwellers as a result of the pollution. Asthma is a prime example, as it is the fastest growing childhood disease in urban areas, and most likely the result of the billions of particulates spewed into the atmosphere.

Electric vehicles have more than technical hurdles to overcome: Some experts fear that the vehicles’ environmental impact is no lighter than that of gas-powered vehicles. And the biggest concerns center on the vehicles’ all-important batteries. Now researchers have published the first in-depth environmental analysis of electric cars using lithium-ion batteries, and have found that they beat their gas-fueled counterparts. When experts consider batteries’ environmental footprint, they worry about a range of issues, including the impacts of mining the necessary metals, the chemical manufacturing process, and whether the batteries end up in landfills or get recycled. According to the researchers’ analysis, about 15% of an electric vehicles’ total environmental burden comes from manufacturing, maintaining, and disposing of the lithium-ion battery. Most of those costs, about 50%, stem from mining and manufacturing the copper and aluminum used in the battery and its connecting cables. Extracting the necessary lithium produces only 2.3% of the battery’s total environmental footprint. Still, the largest contributor to electric vehicles’ total environmental burden comes from recharging the battery. These operational costs were three times greater than the battery alone, but they fluctuated when the researchers looked at other electricity sources besides the typical European power mixture that includes nuclear power, hydropower, and fossil fuels. When the vehicles charged up on electricity from coal-fired plants alone, their total environmental impact increased by 13%, but it dropped by 40% when the electricity came solely from hydropower. Overall, when the researchers compared battery-powered vehicles to their gas-fueled counterparts, they calculated that a car with an internal combustion engine would need a fuel economy of about 60 to 80 mpg to achieve a lower environmental impact than a battery-powered electric vehicle that recharged using Unites States power sources.

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Overall, Electric Vehicles are stating to change the way people think about “Going Green”. With the advancement of battery technology and alternative fuels, these vehicles are producing fewer emissions and going further than ever before. We need to start relying on these technologies to start reducing our carbon footprint. As the years continue to pass, these vehicles are going to start changing the way we live, and operate in society.

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Gustafson, Sven. “How Would Electric Cars Affect Our Environment?” Michigan Local News. 14 Feb. 2008. Web. 04 May 2011. <http://www.mlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2008/02/how_would_electric_cars_affect.html>.

Zemanta. “The Negative Impact of Electric Cars on the Environment.” News and Reviews on Electric Cars, Hybrids, Plug-in Electric Vehicles… 9 Mar. 2010. Web. 04 May 2011. <http://electric-car-on.net/2010/03/09/the-negative-impact-of-electric-cars-on-the-environment/>.

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