The icing on the cake
To make a fair comparison, it is best to focus on a specific country. Germany is a suitable choice as it is the current residence for all of us. In 2021, Germany produced a total of 583 TWh of electricity , with the main sources being gas (96.14 TWh), coal (181 TWh), oil (19.28 TWh), wind (126.10 TWh), nuclear (36.51 TWh), solar (58.98 TWh), hydropower (17.45 TWh), bioenergy (47.30 TWh) and other renewables (0.24 TWh). Out of the total electricity produced, 42.89% was generated from “green sources” such as wind (21.63%), solar (10.12%), bioenergy (8.11%), and others. Wow, isn’t it!?
Let us estimate the “green” kilometers you can drive with your electric car but will dive a bit deeper, than just charge and go. To perform work, energy must be expended, and this also applies to the production of electricity. The principle of generating electricity has remained mostly unchanged over the centuries – something rotates a generator, which produces electricity. For fossil fuel power plants, steam from heating water due to the burning of oil or coal powers the generator, while the water powers the generator at hydroelectric power plants by itself. The turbine is a large generator itself, and energy losses occur during the operation. These losses include water heating, turbine rotation resistance, turbine efficiency, and a lot of others. The efficiency of power plants is around 35%, which means that from burning of one ton of coal, only 350kg would be really used by consumer, and 650kg were wasted for energy loses during operational processes.
Furthermore, the energy must be delivered to the final consumer, resulting in another 2-4% loss under relatively ideal conditions, depending on factors such as the operation condition, age, and type of communication, weather conditions, network architecture, quality of materials, and more. However, the electricity must still be converted to the required value (210-230V) through transformers, resulting in an additional 1.5-3% of losses due to the same factors as above. Another 1-1.5% is lost during transportation from the transformer substation to the outlet. Huh…, and now, finally, we can use this electricity to charge our car.
But this is not the finish!
It is important to note that the efficiency of electric cars is also affected by factors such as the aging of the electric battery, losses in the operation of electric motors, losses in communications, the heating of the battery in cold weather and costs of powering related systems. As a result, only approximately 85% of the energy from the socket is used to power the “engine” of the car, which means that only 26.8% of the energy that we got by burning one ton of coil is used for real. Hm, sounds not enough green, isn’t it?
Certainly not. As we recall, 42.89% of the energy produced in Germany is from renewable sources. Although these sources of power have similar efficiency losses during energy transport to the end consumer and pose challenges in terms of energy storage and controlled production processes, 42.89% of the charge in your car will be much greener than the remaining 57.11%. Thanks to this, you will really be able to reduce the CO2 emissions produced by your car as a reality but not only on paper.
But the main issue with electric cars is not just the fact that approximately fifty-seven out of one hundred kilometers of your journey are still powered by significant amounts of CO2 emissions. The extraction of minerals and substances needed for battery and electrical appliance production causes far more harmful emissions than the electricity required to charge cars (we speak about electric car specific elements, e.g., battery, electric systems, additional cooling systems, electric motors, etc.). For example, most lithium for batteries is extracted from hard rock mines or underground brine reservoirs. In hard rock mining, for every ton of mined lithium, fifteen tons of CO2 are emitted into the air. The production of lithium through evaporation ponds uses around twenty-one million liters per day: approximately 2.2 million liters of water to produce one ton of lithium . But how much is just one ton of CO2? About the same weight as a great white shark!  Moreover, this process also results in the destruction of our planet’s ecosystem on a global scale. It is worth noting that the problems surrounding battery disposal and the disposal of hazardous substances remain unresolved. Or not?