Green “electromobilization”

Electric cars have been used as instruments of environmental protection of cities and means of combating climate change for quite some time in many countries of the world.  According to the data of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the car traffic accounts for nearly 65% of refined products, and, correspondingly, for a noticeable quota of emissions. Presently, more than one billion cars compose the global car fleet.  IEA experts claim that in order to reach the climate goal established by the Paris Agreement, electric means of transportation should account of no less than 40% of global car sales by 2040.

“In order to make sure electric cars are really ‘clean,’ they should receive energy from ‘clean’ sources,” environmentalists from the Russian Social and Ecological Union (RSEU) came to this conclusion.  “We can draw a conclusion that present electric cars are, in fact, environmentally friendly, but only in those countries where the quota of renewable energy sources is sizable.”

A journalist from the member-funded Dutch journalism platform De Correspondent offered an interesting assessment of the situation. In his article Why Electric Cars Are Always Green and How We Can Make Them Even Greener, he came up with an analysis of the carbon footprint of an electric car in the course of its entire life cycle.  The calculation was made for the Netherlands, which has not the cleanest by world standards power production system: 82% of the Dutch electricity is produced on the basis of fossil fuel (natural gas and coal in the first place).    

The author of the article confirmed with calculations the thesis that if the power generation structure is “dirty,” as is the case in the Netherlands, then CO2 specific intensity in manufacturing “fuel” for electric cars is no lower than specific intensity of an oil-processing plant.  If generating structure is as clean as, for example, it is in Norway, at this stage, a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE) is seriously inferior from the environmental viewpoint.

But! Even with the Dutch (“unsatisfactory” from the climatic viewpoint) manufacturing structure of power production, CO2 emissions within the life cycle of an electric car are lower than those of a gasoline-fuelled vehicle. If an electric car is fully powered from sources of renewable energy, the gap is getting even bigger.  And if the very production of accumulators operates on the basis of renewable power (in the image and likeness of Tesla), then the carbon footprint of electric transport will fade away practically entirely, RenEn authors added.

As compared with petrol and diesel vehicles, electric cars are much easier to manufacture and are composed of much fewer components; the components wear less, while last much longer. Advocates of electric cars say, the very principle of operation of an electric car has undermined the foundations of once a very powerful industry of internal combustion engines.  Electric cars “cause damage” to the fossil business: demand for oil from the major consumer of gasoline goes down under the onslaught of electric cars.

We should add to this that electric cars format a new life style and habits. For instance, exploitation of electric cars with their cheap fuel facilitates development of car-sharing: per-minute rent of a public car. Analysts from Frost & Sullivan stressed that expansion of the per-minute rent will allow to save globally up to $5.6 billion per year, increase the speed of city traffic by 15%, and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.  According to an AlixPartners’ study, in 2014, one car-sharing vehicle had replaced 32 “unpurchased” private cars.  Researchers from McKinsey made a forecast that by 2030, sales of private cars will go down by 2%. Preconditions of this tendency are obvious already now: only in Germany, the number of private car owners had decreased in the last decade approximately by one third, Russia Today informed.

As far as Russia is concerned, it is important that ordinary Russian owners of electric cars recognize the environmental factor of their choices. “I believe that gradually the entire world will switch to electric cars and hydrogen cars.  And our country will do the same.  This is a natural process; the era of oil and gasoline is already over… In the nearest ten years, a radical transfer from exhaustible power sources to renewable energy sources will take place,” Moscow resident Anton Belov believes.

Russia has a capacity for electric cars development: zero custom duty on imports of electric cars is in force, the number of free refueling stations and parkings is growing. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave instructions to develop legislative instrumentarium for the support of electric cars. Production of domestic fueling stations charged by solar energy has started in Russia. Quite recently, a station of the sort was opened in Krasnodar Krai. This is nearly an ideal from environmental viewpoint option.

Besides this, another argument “pro” the electromobilization of Russia is the reason that, as any other industry, the auto segment has been in need of modernization for quite some time. The Autostat Agency estimates the average age of cars in Russia at 12.9 years (10.4 for cars of foreign production and 16.4 for cars of domestic production including NIS brands).  With such indexes, the quota of cars meeting the latest Euro standards is not too big in Russia.  Let alone the zero emissions level and climate leadership.

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