Many people see cars as a means to an end, a mode of transporting oneself from point A to point B. For car purists it is so much more. It is an art. A way of life. A symbol of independence, self-reliance and self-expression.
The main antagonist to this lifestyle is the global incorporation of electric vehicles (EVs).
While offering many advantages, EVs come with many downsides, the main ones being the cost of resources, degradation, recycling, maintenance and the charging infrastructure.
Although there are other options, fossil fuels are the primary sources for generating electrical power. Despite the fact that EVs produce no exhaust emissions, the pollution it creates can negate the vehicle’s environmental benefits.
Additionally, included in the costs of resources is Lithium-ion batteries production. These are used to power EVs and contain minerals such as cobalt, lithium, nickel, graphite and manganese, as well as synthetic materials for the casings.
The minerals must be mined from ecologically sensitive areas, causing air and water pollution as well as habitat loss. Workers who mine these minerals in impoverished countries work in poor conditions.
Lithium-ion batteries degrade over time, leading to decreased driving range and the eventual replacement of the unit. These batteries are also very difficult to dispose of and recycle.
Despite the downsides, lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper and graphite have value even after the recycling process. However, unless they are responsibly recycled, there is a possibility of toxic chemicals being released into the environment, increasing the negative environmental impact.
EVs require less maintenance than gas vehicles with fewer parts that degrade over time. But the technology in the average EV isn't known to the average mechanic.
Peter Staritz, professor of engineering and physics, said engineers tend to prioritize optimization and improvement, focusing on development and efficiency. When an engineer develops a system or part for high performance and durability, they often have to sacrifice ease of maintenance. Cars today, especially EVs, are much more technologically advanced which has decreased the average mechanic's ability to repair them.
System differences not only potentially confuse users and their vehicles but limits who knows how to work on their vehicle. The average mechanic doesn’t touch a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) much less an EV.
EV integration also requires a more developed infrastructure. Gasoline-powered vehicles can refuel at any gas station, but EV owners must rely on charging stations. Limited availability of charging stations creates inconveniences and concerns about care range.
The power grid itself derives electricity from primary coal-fired power plants. Another concern is whether they can sustain the influx of these charging stations and handle the load put on it.
“Electric vehicles seem to be a money siphoning scheme that far too many people have blindly bought into in the name of climate change,” Kamal Najar, mechanical engineering junior at Taylor University, said.
It appears, for now, EV production has been rushed for a profit without carefully considering all the detriments.
While EVs could be a step towards an eco-friendlier future, it is crucial to understand and address the environmental challenges associated with producing batteries, their degradation, recycling and charging infrastructure.
With more research, development, steady progress and slow integration, we can certainly maximize their environmental benefits and overcome their current limitations.
Although I prefer loud, beefy V8s, V10s and V12s guzzling gas, burning rubber, terrorizing the streets, and killing the planet all for the sake of personal enjoyment, the lifestyle of the car purist may soon be a thing of the past.