By Saya Norm
Pollution comes in many forms, ranging from toxins in the air to trash at the bottom of the sea.
The effects of pollution on the life of all kinds can be far-reaching spreading thousands of miles beyond its original source.
Pollut ion can spread through the food chain and be carried through air and water affecting all life. It also has a direct effect on human health: it is estimated that exposure to polluted air, water and soil caused nine million premature deaths – one in six of all deaths in 2015.
If we can’t reduce the rate of pollution, the scenario for the future may be worse. Man-made pollution has a long history. The presence of soot on the walls of caves, dating back thousands of years, indicates that early humans generated air pollution from their fires.
Analysis of 2500-year-old ice cores in Greenland has shown evidence of air pollution from copper smelting thousands of miles away in the centre of the Roman Empire. But they were on a small scale. Since the industrial revolution in Europe, air and water pollution became serious. Then in the first quarter of the 20th century, man made the situation worse to replace horse-drawn wagons with fossil-fuelled motor cars.
Humans have been altering Earth’s natural environment through increased carbon dioxide emissions. In the various forms of pollution, air pollution is the foremost priority. It can have natural resources such as volcanoes or wildfires but is mainly caused by human activity.
The main air pollutants are emissions from fossil-fuel-burning power stations, factories and motor vehicles mostly. Poor air quality damages human health and crops and some fossil-fuel emissions cause acid rain, which has killed forests and fish in thousands of lakes.
The WHO estimates that nine out of ten people worldwide are breathing polluted air causing widespread illness and allergies. Air pollution creates climate change which endangers the planet and all living things. As scientists have become more aware of the human causes of climate change, they find ways to reverse it. EV (electric vehicle) is one of the solutions they are finding.
According to the international energy agency’s Global CO2 emission from fossil fuel combustion 2021 report, the transportation sector, which includes gasoline-fueled cars, account for about 24 per cent of global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion in 2019.
It can vary depending on the country and region. In the United States, transportation accounts for about 28 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, with light-duty vehicles (including gasoline-fuelled cars). In other countries where transportation infrastructure and fuel sources may differ.
The amount of carbon emission from gasoline-fuelled transportation varies depending on several factors, such as the fuel efficiency of the vehicle, driving habits and the type of gasoline used. On average, burning one gallon of gasoline produces around 8.89 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide emission.
This figure takes into account the carbon content of gasoline and the chemical reaction that occurs when it is burned. Not only carbon dioxide but other harmful pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds are also released into the atmosphere during combustion.
Changing from fossil-fuelled cars to EVs has some pronounced benefits. On average, driving an EV produces 50- 60 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than driving a gasoline-powered vehicle.
This figure takes into account the carbon emissions generated during the production of electricity, as well as emissions generated during the manufacturing and disposal of the battery.
If an EV is charged with electricity generated entirely from renewable sources, its carbon footprint would be close to zero. Besides, EVs have other benefits for their owner. Although the market price of EVs is still higher than fossil-fuelled cars, EVs are cheaper to operate than gasoline-fuelled vehicles.
But with technological improvements and mass production worldwide the gap may be increasingly narrower in the future.
Currently, the battery price for EVs is much cheaper than five years before. And they offer a smooth and quiet operation, which is more comfortable and enjoyable for passengers. Also, EVs have fewer moving parts thus they are easy to repair and lesser maintenance cost. On the other hand, EVs have some technical obstacles to be solved. The first one is a limited driving range. In 2023, top EV models have improved their driving range of 400 miles. However, they are expensive and not affordable for most people.
Although the EV market is booming, charging infrastructure can’t catch up with EV usage in most countries. With limited charging infrastructure, it is difficult to recharge on longer trips. And also takes significantly longer charging time than refuelling a gasoline-fuelled vehicle, which can be inconvenient for some drivers.
Besides, the higher upfront cost of EVs is not attractive for most people even with the government’s tax incentives. The disposal of batteries used in EVs can be problematic, as they contain hazardous materials. Even when there are some weak points in EV technology, we should gradually change our path to EV.
It is deserved to change not only for environmental benefits that may reduce the carbon footprint and combat climate change but for the improvement of public health including respiratory problems, heart disease and cancer.
As technology improves and charging infrastructure becomes more widely available, the benefits of EVs are likely to become even more significant.