World EV Day 2023: EVs don't eliminate emissions entirely; they shift them from tailpipes to specific locations like energy generation units
One must recognise that the most substantial contributor to carbon pollution in cities is transportation-related emissions. Take, for instance, Bangalore, a city with a population of over 12 million people, boasting approximately 10 million vehicles. These vehicles, predominantly running on gasoline and diesel, release copious amounts of pollution and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
However, envision a scenario where all these vehicles transition to electric power sources. The immediate result would be a drastic reduction in emissions, leading to the comprehensive decarbonisation of our cities.
As you venture beyond major cities like Delhi or Mumbai, you'll often observe a noticeable improvement in air quality. This phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that the smog and high levels of pollution primarily stem from emissions produced by diesel and petrol vehicles. In the grand scheme of decarbonisation, electric vehicles play an extraordinary role.
In urban settings, EVs grant citizens the power to actively participate in the decarbonisation process. While actions such as waste segregation, adopting plant-based diets, and conserving water resources are commendable, the most significant impact arises from the choices we make regarding transportation. This is where EVs emerges as the linchpin.
By opting for EVs or choosing services that employ electric vehicles for deliveries, you are directly contributing to the monumental task of decarbonising our cities. The beauty of this endeavour lies in its accessibility to ordinary citizens, who can become proactive agents of change. No longer must we solely rely on the government to drive decarbonisation efforts. Instead, each EV-driven journey, every electrically-powered delivery, represents a tangible step towards the decarbonised cities we aspire to create.
Some argue that even though EVs are replacing traditional vehicles, they still rely on electricity, which can come from coal-burning power plants. So, how can EVs truly help us decarbonise our cities?
Here's the key: EVs don't eliminate emissions entirely; they shift them from tailpipes to specific locations, like energy generation units. This shift concentrates emissions in one place, making it much easier to control compared to emissions spread across a city due to millions of vehicles on the road.
Of course, this doesn't mean coal plants suddenly become environmentally friendly. However, it does mean that by localising emissions to these power plants, we can work on making them cleaner and more efficient.
India, for instance, has committed to deploying 500 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, with a current renewable energy share of 38%. This means a significant portion of India's energy is already decarbonised. The beauty of this is that EVs can directly benefit from renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.
Imagine if EVs were charged exclusively with solar and wind energy. This would eliminate tailpipe emissions and significantly reduce emissions from coal plants, giving us a truly sustainable and green mode of transportation. The good news is that this is achievable, as setting up a 1-megawatt/hour solar production unit is far easier and cleaner than establishing a coal plant.
In the future, we can expect to see more solar-powered charging stations. India enjoys abundant sunshine, which makes self-sustaining charging stations feasible. These stations will generate their energy through solar panels, reducing their carbon footprint even further.
As long as petrol and diesel remain the primary sources of fuel and energy, there are limited alternatives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It's essential to note that it's not just carbon dioxide (CO2) we're concerned about; internal combustion engines also produce various other harmful gases that harm the environment.
In essence, while the transition to EVs may not be a complete solution, it's a significant step towards decarbonising our cities and creating a cleaner, more sustainable future.
(Pankaj Sharma is co-founder and director at Log9 Materials.)