Are electric cars really sustainable?

Climate change is forcing us to rethink how we will travel in the future. As a consequence, the end of the combustion engine is looming large. In the long term, the CO2 emissions of gasoline and diesel engines cannot be reconciled with efforts to create an emissions-neutral lifestyle; a fact that is gaining increasing acceptance and which is now leading to action and societal responses. Although there is still a long way to go before the internal combustion engine is completely replaced, we have already begun to make progress. 

The direction has already been set: by no means should the car be abandoned and a replacement has already been found, that is, the electric motor.

Some companies, such as Tesla, anticipated the development of the automotive market and created a niche for the time being, which will accommodate the entire industry in the future. The transition to the electric car currently seems to be not a question of “if” but, at best, of “when” – a question that has already been answered politically, forcing the industry to change. 

For the time being, however, the electric motor is not yet part of the solution, but (like the combustion engine) part of the problem: What is initially more decisive for combating climate change than the replacement of combustion engines is the question of where we draw our energy from – energy we use to charge the batteries of our cars. Because if primary energy production produces high emissions, electric cars are not powered by “green energy” and instead become environmental sinners themselves. 

Unfortunately, the transition from conventional energy production to “green” energy production has not happed yet – we would be charging our car’s batteries with energy obtained from fossil energy sources and nuclear energy. 

Moreover, the ecological impact of battery production and exchange must not be disregarded, as batteries have a relatively short life span. It should also be noted that the production of batteries causes considerable CO2 emissions too.

That being said, we want to raise attention to the fact that focusing on lopsided, linear and non-systemic solutions can protract problems rather than solving them. The electric car is not the solution. It is, at best, part of the solution and it should be viewed as such in order not to exacerbate our response and to climate change. 

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Image: Vlad Tchompalov at Unsplash