ARE ELECTRIC CARS BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?
With more electric cars taking to the road than ever, and the government pledging to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, change is certainly in the air (see what we did there?). And that’s got a lot of people debating: are electric cars really better for the environment? We’re looking at all the facts and factors to help answer your questions on the green creds of electric cars…
SO, IS DRIVING AN ELECTRIC CAR BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?
In a word, yes. Driving electric cars is better for the environment because, during your ownership, they emit absolutely no tailpipe emissions when on the move. In fact, according to EDF Energy, just one electric car on the road for a year can save an average 1.5 million grams of CO2. That’s around four return flights from London to Barcelona! In addition to having less impact in terms of climate change, it significantly reduces air pollution. And with air pollution contributing to between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year in the UK, a shift to cleaner air is vital for quality of life and public health.
ARE ELECTRIC CARS REALLY ZERO EMISSION?
When they’re being driven, yep – electric cars are completely zero emission. But of course, they still need to be produced which does use up a fair amount of energy, particularly in terms of the batteries. In fact, more than a third of the lifetime CO2 emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to make the car itself. This is compared to around just 6% for a car with a traditional combustion engine; instead, around 75% of their carbon footprint comes from the fuel they burn on the road.
But as electric cars become more common and technology advances, this is changing for the better, and at MINI we’re doing absolutely everything we can to reduce the impact. As well as responsible sourcing of the materials used for batteries (more on that later) MINI Plant Oxford gets 100% of its energy from renewable energy sources. We’ve got 11,500 solar panels, which reduce our carbon footprint by 15,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. And as our cars are produced in the UK, they have far fewer miles to travel to end up on your drive.
IS CHARGING AN ELECTRIC CAR BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT THAN DRIVING WITH PETROL OR DIESEL?
How green an electric car is also depends on the source of the mains electricity that charges the battery. Basically, to help boost the sustainability of your electric car, you’ll want to charge it using renewably sourced electricity – which is becoming more and more commonplace in the UK. In fact, a government report tells us that from July to September 2022, renewables made up 36.3% of the UK’s fuel supply, compared to just 1.9% of coal. And if you want to make sure your electricity comes from renewables, you can choose the type of energy you consume based on your supplier or plan.
So in answer to this question, yes. The electricity needed for your electric car is better for the environment than the fuel needed for your traditional combustion engine. According to research by the European Energy Agency, the carbon emissions of an electric car are around 17–30% lower than driving a petrol or diesel car, even when taking into account the electricity generation.
WHERE DO MINI SOURCE THE MATERIALS USED IN THEIR ELECTRIC CAR BATTERIES ?
With all these electric cars hitting the road, you might be wondering what their batteries are made from. Well, ours use cobalt, lithium, graphite and nickel, as well as aluminium for the shell. And due to the environmental and ethical concerns that these industries raise (particularly in places such as the Congo and Chile), we’re committed to developing a supply chain that is responsible, sustainable and matches our MINI values.
As part of the BMW Group’s goal to get 100% of raw materials from sustainable sources, our suppliers must provide info on their environmental, social and governance standards. Since 2020, we’ve been sourcing both cobalt and lithium from Australia and Morocco, as the mines there meet the highest ethical and sustainability standards. We regularly have team members onsite, and know the mines and the working methods of our partners. To learn more about our sourcing methods, protocols and commitment to sustainability, hit the link below.
We’re not just ignoring what’s going on in other places though. For example, we support a project that investigates and improves the working conditions in Congolese mines. We’re also steering well clear of deep-sea mining until its consequences have been fully researched and protection for our spectacular seas can be guaranteed.
And in true MINI style, we’re not stopping there. The wider BMW group is currently investing in an innovative method for more efficient and sustainable lithium extraction, taking it from natural deposits of salt water. They’re also putting money into a new method of streel production that swaps coal for carbon-free electricity.
For more info on the materials used and how we’re sourcing them sustainably, scroll down to the FAQs section at the link below.
WHAT HAPPENS TO USED ELECTRIC CAR BATTERIES?
Pleasingly, most electric car batteries are either reused in factories or homes, or recycled if there’s no life at all left in them. They’re ground down and then separated into the valuable materials – so they can start life all over again.
And did you know that all battery producers in the UK must be registered with the Environment Agency as part of an initiative to increase battery collection and recycling, and reduce the risk of releasing hazardous substances into the environment? So you’re always encouraged to return your end-of-lifecycle MINI Electric battery to us for free!
HOW SUSTAINABLE ARE MINI?
We’ve talked about renewable energy at Plant Oxford, and our sustainable sourcing of raw materials. But what else do we do at MINI to make manufacturing its (iconic) cars as kind as possible to the environment?
- Across the BMW Group factories, we recycle a whopping 99% of our waste – laying the foundations for sustainable cars right from the production stage.
- We love using recycled materials, too. We are currently working towards using 25% recycled plastics, while our cast aluminium parts already use 40% recycled material.
- We’ve got a fleet of 18 LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) lorries that deliver components across the UK to MINI Plant Oxford. This means way fewer CO2 and nitrogen oxide emissions, plus LNG comes from renewable sources like organic household waste.
- Our employees are keen to make changes too. In 2018, the team at the Oxford plant reduced their electricity consumption by 41% compared to the previous year.