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EV Pros and Cons: For electric vehicles to become the better alternatives, an entire system must change

EV Pros and Cons: For electric vehicles to become the better alternatives, an entire system must change

Tessa R. Salazar

‘Knowledge of the sort you need does not begin with information, it begins with experience and perception. But there is a dark and twisty road from experience and perception to correct action.” –Laurence Gonzales, “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why”

It’s the final week of April, and before we know it, the merry month of May is upon us, and we all know what’s just around the corner for that month.

That quote I mentioned is quite fitting for our times. We are at the crossroads of many things. For one, yes, the May 9 national and local elections are but a couple of weeks away. For another, we are about to enter an era in motoring where a paradigm shift is about to happen, whether we want to or not.

Gonzales authored the guidebook that described the true accounts of people who experienced and lived through life-threatening events. For this piece, I maintain that it doesn’t have to entail risking your own life to gain the knowledge that you need.

We are at the cusp of a motoring revolution—an electrified transition. Many factors are pushing and pulling us into this reality: Environmental (climate change); sociopolitical (war in eastern Europe); economical (oil prices, volatility of oil sources). These are truly exciting times to be automotive scribes and pundits.

Last year, the New York Times wrote that it was a critical year for electric vehicles, writing that while “the overall auto market stagnates, the popularity of battery-powered cars is soaring worldwide.” It added that Europeans, for the first time, bought more electric cars than diesel-powered ones, which were once the most popular option in the continent.

Here in the Philippines, the Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act (Evida) is still in the hands of the President, unsigned, but moves are already snowballing, as auto manufacturers continue introducing their EV models and charging infrastructures are slowly being put up (UPDATE: As of presstime, Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines president Edmund Araga told me that he was in a meeting with the Board of Investments, and that the Evida officially lapsed into law as RA 11697, per update from the Department of Trade and Industry’s legislative liaison).

Caveats about EVs are also being revealed, the prevailing one being that batteries used for EVs aren’t that climate-friendly, as they require mining the earth and producing toxic substances.

Dr. Dranreb Earl Juanico, PhD, Principal Researcher of TechnoCoRe of the Technological Institute of the Philippines, observed that, “on a well-to-wheel basis, ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles may outcompete EVs unless recharging stations for the latter are fueled mainly by renewable energy. The Center for Advanced Batteries is looking for ways to realize large-scale EV recharging through renewable energy harvesting and battery energy storage. For this to happen, the batteries used in the storage component must themselves be highly recyclable. Such batteries exist locally, but they first need to be optimized for renewable energy storage.”

University of the Philippines scientist Dr. Joey Ocon, PhD, Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering and co-founder of the Laboratory of Electrochemical Engineering, recommended a review paper discussing life cycle analysis studies on EVs vs ICEs, which could be accessed at ScienceDirect (Elsevier; Science of the Total Environment, March 25, 2022).

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According to the paper: “To assess the environmental performance of EVs scientifically and accurately, we reviewed the life cycle environmental impacts of EVs and compared them with those of ICEs. Considering that the battery is the core component of EVs, we further summarize the environmental impacts of battery production, use, secondary utilization, recycling, and remanufacturing. The results showed that the environmental impact of EVs in the production phase is higher than that of ICEs due to battery manufacturing. EVs in the use phase obtained a better overall image than ICEs, although this largely depended on the share of clean energy generation. In the recycling phase, repurposing and remanufacturing retired batteries are helpful in improving the environmental benefits of EVs. Over the entire life cycle, EVs have the potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and fossil energy consumption; however, they have higher impacts than ICEs in terms of metal and mineral consumption and human toxicity potential. In summary, optimizing the power structure, upgrading battery technology, and improving the recycling efficiency are of great significance for the large-scale promotion of EVs, closed-loop production of batteries, and sustainable development of the resources, environment, and economy.”

Simply put, it’s not enough that we just dump EVs and mandate their use in our country. A paradigm shift requires that an entire system be changed. It is for our industries and our government to sort out.

For society to embrace automotive electrification, however, that will depend on us individually. And that’s where Gonzales’ words ring true for me. If you truly believe you’ve gained knowledge not just for knowledge’s sake, you have to experience it, live it, and adapt your own way of life into it. Otherwise, it can be knowledge that is at best trivial, and at worst twisted and turned around to serve a personal bias (that’s how fake news and historical revisionism form).

Somehow, technology helps us experience the impact of EVs and ICEs in real time and in real life, to help us create our own fact-based opinions. A new app from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called Carboncounter (carboncounter.com) shows if your car (electric or otherwise) meets climate targets. The Guardian reported that the app allows consumers to check how their own vehicles, or the cars they’re considering purchasing, stack up on the carbon emissions and cost curves.

The MIT researchers incorporated relevant factors into the app: The emissions involved in manufacturing the cars and in producing gasoline and diesel fuel, how much gasoline conventional cars burn, and where the electricity to charge EV comes from.