Technology Transport

Electric cars and the environment

According to the UK Government: “Transport accounts for around a quarter of UK greenhouse gas emissions and affects air quality at the roadside”. Greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for Global Warming and a wide range of environmental problems related to it. Transportation contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is higher in the UK than worldwide. According to Greenpeace, global transportation emissions account for only 13% of total global emissions and that’s why we all should be concerned about reducing these emissions in the UK.

old car emitting greenhouse gas and polluting
Conventional cars emit greenhouse gases

Cars affect the environment not only because of emissions when we are driving them, but also when fuel is being extracted and produced. Oil, coal and gas are non-renewable fossil fuels extracted by methods that are very harmful to the environment, destroying forests and polluting water, air and soil. More than this, these fuels can’t be easily replenished as they are formed after millions and millions of years of organic material being submitted to natural conditions of pressure and heat under the Earth’s surface.

Electric cars are an alternative to fossil fuelled transportation and can reduce environmental damage dramatically as they emit zero greenhouse gases when used. They are more energy efficient than conventional ones as all their energy source is converted into kinetic energy (movement) while conventional cars also produce heat that is wasted. In addition, electric cars have regenerative brakes, a tool that returns energy to the battery every time the brake is used.

electric green car with plug to charge
Electric cars are an alternative to fossil fuelled transportation

Often, people are concerned about charging when they start to consider buying an electric car, but this is actually very easy as most cars come with a plug that you can connect to a regular wall plug to charge your car for several hours every day. You can make this process even faster if you install a dedicated home charge point, but this is not necessary. We do recommend you get an electrician to check your wiring network before charging your electric car at home in case yours is too old or haven’t been checked in a long time.

Conventional cars are harmful to human health because of air and noise pollution and replacing them by electric cars would eliminate these health threats as electric ones emit no air pollutants or noise. Actually, electric cars are so quiet that the European Council is imposing new laws that require electric and hybrid cars to make audible noise in order to avoid accidents.

woman with mobile phone charging orange electric car at home
Electric cars can be charged at home and don’t emit noise or pollution

Hybrid cars are another option to conventional ones. They combine two or more types of power sources such as electricity and conventional internal combustion fuelled by oil, gas or diesel. Using fossil fuel only when necessary, these cars reduce emission of pollutants and conserve a large amount of energy through regenerative brakes. However, if used in high speed road driving they will constantly resort to fuel as this is more appropriate to this driving style and energy efficiency will be compromised. So, when opting for a hybrid car remember it will only be able to operate through electricity in the city and urban traffic, otherwise it will turn to fossil fuel and represent no environmental or energy efficiency advantage.

Another aspect to pay attention to regarding electric vehicles is that electricity in the UK comes mostly from non-renewable sources such as burning fossil fuels (gas, coal and oil). Only “25% of the electricity generated in 2015” in the UK comes from renewable sources such as “wind, wave, marine, hydro, biomass and solar”. So, although electric cars emit no greenhouse gas when used, charging them with electricity sourced from non-renewable sources will represent a considerable amount of emission before charge. The best option is to charge from renewable sources, but even when charged from non-renewable sources, electric cars are still more energy-efficient and less harmful to the environment than conventional cars because of the regenerative brake systems and non-release of pollutants.

electric vehicle or car charging point sign on the floor
Check if charging points are supplied by renewable sources

We expect that the UK will shift its energy matrix towards more renewable sources in the near future, making electric cars and charging them even more sustainable. While this is slowly taking place, you can help by choosing home electricity providers that use renewable sources and changing your conventional car for an electric or hybrid one. You can take a look at this list of evaluated electric and hybrid cars or book a test drive here and Green It Yourself… Now!


First picture by Alvimann, charging point picture by Fellowdesigns


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