The EV Problem
Electrical Vehicles (EVs) are inevitable; they emit no greenhouse gases when driven, which is very different from fossil fuel vehicles. Problems regarding pollution from an EV occur in the manufacturing, charging and recycling process.
Manufacturing, fueling and recycling of the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) has been perfected over the last 100 years, while the EV industry is still in its infancy. As a result, there is a lot of catching up to do in comparison.
A huge emission problem now has surfaced because the majority of lithium-ion batteries are produced in China, which uses coal as an energy source. Other countries have started to manufacture these batteries but have nowhere near the dominant percentage of the market China has.
Charging an EV brings the debate of “where is the electricity sourced?” The answer will vary from state to state, or country to country.
It isn’t so much an EV dilemma, but an industry and legislation problem. For example, a state may rely on different forms of resources; one may favor renewables, another may rely more on fossil fuels, or a combination.
If an EV was charged solely on a fossil fuel power grid, it would still use less per mile of use than a gas vehicle according to research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Also note that many states use a combination of renewable resources, projected to grow in the future, the impact of charging an EV is even less.
Lithium-ion technology isn’t new, but this is the first time it is used in a larger application on a mass consumer scale. Battery technology continues to advance on longevity, size and use, but will need to be replaced.
Recycling these large batteries is complex; it is not a simple process or logistically cheap. But many companies who have partnered with manufacturers, are working towards streamlining the process to help reduce mining of new resources. For example, Redwood Materials claims they can recapture 95% of the elements and reprocess them to be used in new batteries.
The problem isn’t that EVs are a strain; it’s more the carbon footprint has been ignored for a long time. For many decades the stranglehold of certain profitable industries has shaped our society to be what it is, making it difficult to change. But now the ramifications of the carbon footprint are at the forefront and we have to play catch up to turn the tables. Obviously, it would have been prudent to tackle them over time in the past.
Infrastructure and planning are way behind to break the long overdue reliance on fossil fuels. Getting up to speed is not easy or cheap. In fact, lithium-ion batteries made in China are detrimental to the environment, and the cost of purchasing an EV is high for the average consumer. Those two variables, along with the major lack of infrastructure, makes mass adoption a hard pill to swallow right now.
Xavier Estrada can be reached at email@example.com.