Have Green Cars Had The Desired Effect On The Planet?

Electric cars and vehicles are designed to be an eco-friendly alternative to cars that run on gasoline. This has led global leaders and automakers to embrace electric vehicles as part of their carbon emissions reduction strategies.

General Motors has gone so far as pledge to sell only electric cars and light trucks by 2035, and completely transform its automaking to battery-powered designs. Volvo is another car manufacturer with plans to pivot to electric-only new car sales by 2030.

Yet, no industry comes without an environmental footprint. Some people have raised legitimate concerns that mining rare earth minerals for electric car batteries could put biodiverse regions at risk. Others have noted that we don’t have a cost-effective means to recycle electric car batteries.

Does this mean that electric cars are worse than regular cars? Experts say no, but they do have some important environmental pitfalls to address. Read on to learn more.

What are electric cars?

Plugging in your transportation is a new concept to most people who are used to pumping gas to get from point A to point B. With a dashboard that looks like a giant smartphone, EVs can look like they’ve come from the future. Yet, their technology is not new. Electric cars have existed just as long as cars powered by gasoline.

Just like your average automatic transmission car, an electric vehicle powers on with an ignition, accelerates with the gas pedal and stops with the brakes. The main difference from a gas-fueled car is the design of its motor.


Electric vehicles are powered by batteries which must be periodically re-charged using a charging station connected to an electricity power source. This is familiar to most people because it’s the same way we charge our phones, computers, and other electric devices and appliances.

Most electric vehicles use a lithium-ion battery with a relatively simple design. In fact, there are only 20 moving parts in an EV motor versus almost 2,000 in the engine of a comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.

How do they work?

A fully electric car requires no petrol or diesel and no gears to drive higher or lower speeds. Instead, pressing the accelerator powers the motor from an electric battery. The motor turns the wheels from the drive shafts. When you press the brakes, the energy generated in the motor can deliver power back to the battery, helping it retain an electric charge longer.

There are a few key differences between electric cars and gas-fueled vehicles:

  • They’re quieter.
  • They accelerate faster without gears to shift through.
  • A non-reactive driving style (no harsh braking) and medium driving speeds maintains the charge longer over time.
  • Extremely hot or cold weather can deplete the charge faster than temperate weather.

What about hybrid cars?

Hybrid vehicles are an attractive option for people who want to lower their gas costs and environmental footprint in areas without a lot of charging stations.

Hybrid cars use both petroleum and electric motors. Some will use the electric motor at lower speeds and switch to the gas-fueled motor at high speeds. Others merely use the electric motor as a support to the main gas engine. Depending on the level of power the electric motor supplies, hybrids are classified as strong or mild. The key point is they emit less CO2 and they require less fuel so they can save their owners money.

Are electric cars greener than fossil fuel powered ones?

We know that electric cars don’t emit CO2 emissions from their tailpipe, because no fuel is burned. That said, they still require electricity. For now, most electricity (about 60%) still comes from fossil fuel sources in the US.

To understand the full picture, you’d have to compare how fossil fuels are burned while charging your electric vehicle versus the amount burned to drive an ICE car. This varies a lot depending on the region.


This varies country to country as well as state to state. Driving an electric car in Iceland, for instance, would emit almost no emissions from its operation or charging, because the energy sources there are predominantly renewable: wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro.

In the US, Maine sourced just 79% of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources in 2020, while Texas relied on wind, solar, and nuclear for only 32% of its electricity. On the other hand, Texas is installing more solar power than any other state, so the mix will likely improve over time.

These issues make it necessary to compare the environmental footprint of electric vehicles today as well as within future projections.

So what’s the final verdict? According to the US EPA, even when you account for GHG emissions from electricity generation for charging, electric cars still have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline cars.


3 Emerging Green Practices We Can Expect In The New Year

Despite the fact that 2020 saw a drop of over 8% in global carbon emissions — the sharpest drop in recorded history — the year was full of setbacks for the world’s sustainability and climate goals. On the plus side, several movements towards a cleaner, greener tomorrow are also accelerating rapidly.

Here are the top three trends that are shaping a more sustainable future for our planet.

1. Renewables And Nuclear Hold Promise For Net Zero Energy

An infographic based on the latest Climate Watch data highlights that energy usage contributes to 73.2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is far and away the highest contributor, with the second-highest being agriculture, at 18.4%. So, it comes as no surprise that energy generation has seen the highest levels of interest and progress. In fact, in the past year, we have seen record growth in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, which grew at 23% and 12%, respectively.

Last year, even while all other energy consumption declined, renewable energy consumption increased by 3%, according to International Energy Agency (IEA) statistics. In fact, electricity generated from renewable sources grew 7%, and the contribution of renewable sources to the global grid rose to its highest ever share of 29%.


Another technology with rapidly mounting interest is “green hydrogen” — hydrogen fuel that is synthesized with energy from low-carbon sources such as wind and solar. The cost of green hydrogen has been steadily decreasing in recent years.

Meanwhile, nuclear power is on the rise again after a decade-long plateau in growth. China and Russia are driving the highest growth in nuclear energy generation, at 5% and 3%, respectively. Between 2020 and the end of 2021, up to 17 new nuclear reactors were slated to go online globally.

While nuclear sources currently generate only 10.3% of the world’s energy, these increases will boost nuclear’s output in developing economies to over 30%. With nuclear and renewable sources combined, low-carbon energy generation exceeds the output from coal plants for the first time ever, saving more than 2,000 million tons of carbon emissions per year.

2. EVs Lead Clean Transportation Efforts

Before the pandemic, transportation accounted for 16.2% of greenhouse gas emissions, with road transport responsible for 73.4% of those emissions. The electric vehicle (EV) is leading the charge in the quest to decarbonize transportation.

Even though global mobility was subjected to huge shocks in 2020, EVs still registered a staggering 43% growth over the previous year. This puts the number of electric vehicles roaming the world’s roads at over 10 million.

This puts into context why 18 out of the world’s 20 largest automotive manufacturers — that account for nearly 90% of global car sales — have switched or pledged to switch, either completely or significantly, to manufacturing EVs in the coming years. Volvo has announced that it will sell only electric cars by 2030, while GM has pledged to switch to a zero-carbon portfolio by 2035.

Others with aggressive electrification plans include Ford, Volkswagen, and Stellantis – the giant joint-venture between Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot. Mounting pressure from government policies to decrease carbon emissions is also an important contributor to the EV revolution.

But consumer concerns related to the limited range of EVs and the slow rate of charging (compared to filling up an internal combustion vehicle) are limiting adoption. Manufacturers are trying to address these through innovations like the solid-state battery, which promises charging times of just 10 minutes to get up to a full battery, and a range of over 300 miles on a single charge. Toyota has even announced plans to debut EVs with solid-state batteries by 2023.

Another significant innovation is the “structural battery”. Such a battery doubles as a structural part of the vehicle, thereby saving weight and promising dramatic gains in the EV range. Tesla announced that it would be using structural batteries in its new cars, reducing weight by 10% and increasing range by 14%.

3. CCUS Promises To Bridge The Carbon Gap

Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) refers to a set of technologies that capture carbon dioxide from industrial or other emissions, and either upcycle it by using it for other processes, or store it in geological formations to prevent it from getting into the atmosphere.

CCUS is not a new concept but has seen a surge of interest in the last four years. The number of new CCUS projects underway has more than doubled from 20 to 44, representing over $27 billion in investments. Data show that CCUS can capture more than 90% of the carbon dioxide from industrial emissions, which translates to dramatic benefits for sustainability.

For example, at a single typical coal power plant, CCUS technology can prevent more than 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year. Innovation in the area of utilization of captured carbon holds the potential to transform CCUS into an economically viable and sustainable process.


The world’s first fully commercial CCUS facility was recently completed in India. At the plant, carbon captured from a coal-fired boiler operated by a fertilizer company is being used to synthesize soda ash – a compound used for a variety of industrial processes, ranging from the manufacture of glass to dyes and food additives.

A promising application for carbon utilization is in the area of building materials, where concrete blocks can be made lighter and stronger thanks to carbon sequestration. CarbonCure is a startup applying this technology by injecting captured carbon dioxide into concrete, making it stronger and also allowing the use of less cement for a given structure.


One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that environmental awareness amongst consumers, companies, and governments worldwide, seems to have heightened in its wake. A survey of over 14,000 people worldwide found that 93% report increased concerns related to sustainability and climate change, post-COVID.

Searches related to sustainable products — from clothing to food, automobiles, and even buildings — have gone up 71% in 2021. This rising tide of interest in sustainable lifestyles has been accompanied by an explosion of activity and innovation, with energy, mobility, construction, finance, packaging, and carbon capture being the biggest shifts towards a healthier planet.


7 Energy-Efficiency Innovations to Look Forward to In The Next Decade

Domestic energy efficiency has advanced a long way over the last few decades. Despite our overall energy consumption increasing by just over a third since 1980, on average our homes consume around 10% less overall. How can this be the case when we have so many more electrical appliances? Back in 1980, not many homes had more than a single TV, and computers and mobile phones were essentially non-existent. Yet somehow they used more electricity!

The answer to this question comes down to one simple principle. Energy efficiency. Government regulations and technical advances led by the private sector have resulted in appliances that are simply more sustainable. Throw in a better public understanding of the importance of reducing carbon emissions, and also the use of money expert comparison sites to track the expense of powering a home, and it the picture becomes a little clearer.

Expect to see this trend become ever more prevalent in the near future, as sustainability has become a huge industry that continues to rapidly expand. Here’s a selection of the most recent energy efficiency innovations that are already helping homeowners save money that we can expect to become commonplace over the coming years.

1. Smart Homes

At first glance, you may wonder what the point is in buying a new domestic appliance that is advertised as ‘internet-connected/ready’. After all, who is going to need a web-compatible refrigerator or air conditioning unit? It is increasingly common for newly released appliances to boast this feature because in the coming years, our homes are going to be much more connected than at present. Being able to monitor and control energy expenditure remotely via smartphone is a tech that is already with us – but these are still the early days.

The next big step forward is going to be the implementation of wireless sensors throughout the home. These will connect all the appliances in the home to a centralized control panel which will automatically instruct how they interact with the energy supply. For instance, appliances not in use, but on ‘standby’ mode will be entirely disconnected from the power supply when nobody is at home. Heating and air conditioning use will be precisely measured according to the ambient temperature. Just these two examples – and there are many more in the pipeline – are set to shave a considerable amount of household energy consumption in the very near future.

2. Next Generation Home Insulation

The US Industrial Science & Technology Network takes the approach that heating and cooling costs can best be reduced by simply developing superior insulation. While still at the development stage, these are promised to be far more efficient at preventing heat from escaping.

As may be expected, they are also going to be environmentally sound and most likely comprised of recycled foam materials. Should these be proven to work, there is a very good chance they will become the industry norm for new build and redeveloped housing in the years to come.


3. Reflective Roofing Materials

While insulation is ideal for maintaining an ambient temperature what about those who live in warmer climes? Everyone knows how expensive it is to run air conditioning 24 hours a day, but there have been considerable recent advances in reflective rooftop materials. Currently, these work by using special pigments that are coated onto the roof in order to reflect sunlight and heat.

The next generation in development will use fluorescent pigments that look likely to be up to four times more efficient. So for those who reside in areas where effective air conditioning is essential around the year, these new materials may well be an absolute godsend.

4. Magnetocaloric Refrigerators

A fridge powered by magnets? Close, but not quite. Refrigeration technology has barely changed or advanced since they were first introduced. Modern fridges still rely on vapour compression, which unfortunately requires chemical coolants that are notoriously bad for the environment.

Next-generation models are going to be able to make use of water-based coolants that make use of the magnetocaloric effect. In layperson’s terms, this is the use of magnets to alter the magnetic field which can provide an extremely energy-efficient cooling effect. Expect this to become commonplace in the coming years, thanks to their potential in enormously reducing energy expenditure and carbon emissions.

5. Much More Efficient Heat Pumps

Considerable progress has been made by the US Building Technologies Office in developing heat pumps that essentially move heat throughout the home. There are three models in design that promise to considerably reduce expenditure on heating while also significantly reducing carbon emissions:

  • A low-cost gas-based heating pump could massively increase efficiency and result in lowering heating costs by a staggering 45%.

  • Multiple function fuel-based pumps designed for domestic use can still save an estimated 30% with the added bonus of also providing more efficient water heating.

  • Natural gas-based heating pumps connected with air conditioners aim to use a very low emission boiler to cater to all domestic needs regardless of the season.

These styles of heat pumps are also going to be used to significantly reduce the energy used by clothes drying machines. General Electric has already near completed its first gas pump-compatible dryer. This is intended to reduce the energy consumption of perhaps the least efficient appliance in the home by up to 60%.


6. Even Better LED Lighting

Energy-saving lighting may have become the accepted norm in many households, and the good news is that it is set to become even better. At present these are up to 85% more efficient than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, but the next generation – scheduled for a few years’ time – promises to double their efficiency. An improvement up to 230 lumens (from the current 115) is forecast.

7. Advanced Window Insulation

While still in development this may not sound like a huge advance, but could well result in enormous net energy savings down the line. Using microprocessors and sensors to measure sunlight and radiant heat, these are going to automatically provide shading to assist with providing ideal natural lighting and also assist with heating. Expect these to be integrated with the general smart home system outlined above in due course.

Final Thoughts

So there we have seven of the most exciting and interesting energy efficiency innovations that we can expect to see in the home over the coming years. While some are already in production and others are just passing the prototype phase, the future is looking positive in terms of reducing emissions and better managing energy consumption.