Electric vehicles

Are Electric Vehicles Better for the Environment?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are praised for climate impact, but skeptics question their green status. Fleet owners, facing regulations, wonder if EVs cut emissions. MiX by Powerfleet experts dissect EV tech to reveal if it truly betters the environment.
Explore EV truths with MiX by Powerfleet: Debunk myths, understand impact, and assess emissions reduction for a greener fleet future.

Are EVs better for the environment? The answer is complicated.

Electric vehicles or EVs are often touted as an essential tool for addressing climate change, but they have critics. Skeptics have questioned whether these vehicles deserve the green label attached to them. It’s a critical question for fleet owners considering the advantages of an EV fleet. In the face of government regulations and other external pressures, they want to know if these vehicles will reduce their fleet’s emissions.

There are many myths about EVs, and fleet owners interested in incorporating EVs into their fleets need to separate fact from fiction. It’s essential to understand how these vehicles work, their environmental impact, and how they impact fleet operations before you replace your conventional fleet with an electric one. Let the vehicle telematics experts at MiX by Powerfleet break down this cutting-edge electric vehicle technology — are EVs really better for the environment?

What Are Electric Vehicles (EVs)?

Unlike other vehicles with an internal combustion engine (ICE vehicles), EVs are powered by one or more electric motors. The motor draws power from a large traction battery pack to propel the automobile. The vehicle operator must charge the battery by plugging it into a wall outlet or other charging equipment. If the vehicle runs entirely on electricity, it will lack liquid fuel components. All-electric vehicles do not have a fuel tank, fuel line, or fuel pump. EVs are valued for their low fuel costs, quiet motor, lack of tailpipe emissions, and relatively low maintenance needs.

However, some hybrid vehicles can be powered by both electricity and gasoline, and the other fuel source can power the vehicle whenever it is not possible to charge the battery. Hybrids have both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine.

How Do EVs Work?

EVs work by drawing energy from a charging station. The energy is stored in the EVs battery, and the vehicle’s motor draws on this energy storage to propel the wheels. Many internal components work together to power the vehicle.

  • Charge Port. This vehicle component connects the vehicle to the charging station or external power source. These power sources are called electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) and are often located at a commercial charging station or private residence.
  • Inverter. An alternating current powers the motor, but the battery pack can only accept a direct current. Inverters play a crucial role in the vehicle’s functioning, converting the battery’s direct current into an alternating current that powers the motor. The inverter also helps control the EV’s speed and can recover displaced energy during deceleration through a process called regenerative braking.
  • Electric Traction Motor. This defining component is what powers and moves an EV. It propels the vehicle by generating a revolving magnetic field that turns the motor. These batteries typically use an alternating current because it is more reliable and efficient than motors powered by a direct current. Electric motors are highly responsive to the pedal, efficiently providing immediate power that results in quicker acceleration than conventional ICE vehicles. They also require less maintenance than an internal combustion engine.
  • Electric Powertrain. The electric powertrain refers to the high voltage electric system responsible for the vehicle’s operation. May internal components make up the electric powertrain, including the traction battery pack, inverter, electric traction motor, and reduction drive. The powertrain can provide instant torque.
  • Traction Battery Pack. This critical component of EV technology stores energy when the vehicle charges. EVs use battery packs that contain lithium-ion batteries. This battery type is favored for its high energy density, low maintenance needs, and larger currents. Some EVs may have an auxiliary battery to provide energy to the vehicle’s accessories.

This innovative technology sounds complex to newcomers, but the vehicle’s internal components are more straightforward than ICE vehicles, requiring less maintenance to function correctly.

Vehicles that run exclusively on an electric motor are called battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Other EVs combine different energy sources. Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) rely on an internal combustion engine and take advantage of electric vehicle technologies such as traction battery packs or electric traction motors.

Are EVs Really Better for the Environment?

Yes, there is broad agreement that EVs have a lower carbon footprint during their lifetime than conventional vehicles with internal combustion engines. That does not mean that every EV has zero greenhouse gas emissions or that EV technology has reached its full potential.

Critics of EVs note that the battery production process can generate high emissions and that emissions from an EV can be higher than a gasoline vehicle in some parts of the world. Indeed, the production process for EV batteries and the electricity that fuels them can be more energy-intensive than manufacturing a conventional vehicle. However, the EV’s better energy efficiency over its lifetime will eventually offset the initial high environmental costs of its production, making it the better choice for the environment in 95% of the world.

What’s the Electricity Grid in Your Area?

The emissions of an EV can vary based on where the car is driven. If you want to know the exact figures for the emissions of an EV in your area, you can use this tool created by the EPA. Your zip code matters because the emissions your vehicle produces are dependent on how your region produces electricity. Across the U.S., electricity is made using various energy sources, from coal to wind. The emissions from electricity production can vary based on how clean the energy source is. For example, coal is significantly higher than wind. Still, in most locations, even with the current energy grid, the total emissions per mile will be higher for convention vehicles than one that is battery-powered. If the U.S. switches to renewable sources for electricity, EVs can realize their full environmental benefits. It may take several decades to reach that point.

Battery Production

As critics of the green halo surrounding EVs point out, it takes a significant amount of energy to produce the complex lithium-ion batteries in EVs. The batteries rely on cobalt and lithium, raw materials mined using an environmentally unstainable, energy-intensive process. Batteries are made in large-scale facilities called gigafactories that use significant amounts of energy, accounting for most of the extra emissions from EV production. If the factory is powered by fossil fuels, which is the case for many older gigafactories in China, the carbon emissions can be pretty high. New factories have emerged over the last decade that relies on fuel sources with lower carbon footprints. Additionally, transporting the batteries also contributes to their environmental impact.

The industry is working to decarbonize the battery production process, but it will take time. Because the reduced lifetime emissions of EVs offset their carbon-heavy production process, EVs really are better for the environment.

The Future of Transport: How Fleet Managers Can Benefit from an Electric Fleet

The reduced environmental impact of electric fleets is great, but for most fleet managers, the impact on their fleet’s performance will be the deciding factor. Fortunately, this technology can enhance your fleet’s performance. Going green comes with many benefits.

  • Reduce Maintenance. Fleet maintenance costs are a significant expense for fleet operations. Compared to an internal combustion engine, an electric motor is a relatively simple technology that requires less maintenance. There’s no need to spend money on engine fluid replacements, mufflers, catalytic converters, ignition coils, and other maintenance costs. You only need to worry about replacing coolant and brake and windshield washer fluids, as well as battery replacement costs once the warranty expires.
  • Lower Fuel Costs. EVs have lower fuel costs than conventional fleets. Gas prices fluctuate significantly, and fleets must simply absorb this expense. However, EVs can reduce or eliminate your dependency on this expensive fuel source. Fleet management software can help you determine your savings. It can help you calculate your current fuel costs per mile and other fuel usage information, which you can compare to the estimated fuel costs for EVs.
  • Improve Performance. Fleet managers value diesel engines for the power and torque they deliver, but EVs can outperform traditional vehicles on these metrics. Some EVs can make it from 0-62mph in just under two seconds.
  • Increase Productivity. Stopping for fuel takes time. Without those stops, drivers can make better time and pay more attention to driving safely and efficiently. The vehicle can recharge overnight or whenever the vehicle has downtime.

Depending on the workforce in your area, EVs can help attract new employees who care about the impact of their work and want greener jobs. EVs offer many advantages for fleet managers looking to optimize their fleet’s performance and reduce costs. It’s one of many technologies available that can help improve your fleet’s operations.

EVs aren’t the only technology that fleet owners can benefit from. Another optimization opportunity fleet managers can take advantage of is fleet telematics. This software tool can complement an electric fleet by increasing efficiency, ensuring driver compliance, increasing security, and improving safety. If you’re looking to improve the efficiency of your EV or ICE fleet, learn more about telematics and how it can supercharge your fleet’s performance.

Are Electric Vehicles Better for the Environment?
Electric vehicles
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