As COP23 delegates shuttled between meetings in electric vehicles, it seemed we were at the end of the beginning of the journey. However we still have a long way to go given the lithium batteries’ dark side we explore here. Electric vehicle battery manufacturers are not yet ‘knights in shining armor’. In reality they are a rather large ‘elephant in the room’ that most of us choose to ignore.
Traveling to Lithium Batteries Dark Side
Jonathan Eckhart touches on the atrocious mining conditions in China in Green Biz before he moves on to his main theme. The climate community wants 100 million more electric vehicles by 2030. This is going to make the lucky few extremely rich.
However the world may not be an environmentally richer place for many years to come. “Paradoxically, realizing this goal could inflict unintended harm on both humans and the environment” in Jonathan Eckhart’s view. You see, lithium batteries’ dark side is the deep carbon footprint they leave behind. And that’s throughout their life cycle from procurement of raw materials through to manufacturing, use and recycling.
See the Future of Battery-Electric Cars
The Three Main Limiting Factors of Lithium Batteries
Jonathan Eckhart begins by stating manufacturing an electric vehicle has twice the global warming effect of an internal combustion one. Lithium batteries are the dark side of this and the more powerful the vehicle the bigger the damage.
Moreover, electric cars and other vehicles still largely charge off dirty electricity from coal and gas. However, once in operation, a lithium battery vehicle is distinctly cleaner than diesel or petrol. The elephant is the time it takes for the vehicle to pay back the damage manufacturing caused.
Take for example Germany with 30% renewable energy. There, a mid-sized electric car must travel 37,000 miles on average, to break even with a petrol car. This typically takes five years. By then, many consumers will be ready to trade in the battery. The situation is not much different in the United States.
Of course, there are things we can do to mitigate the damage from lithium batteries dark side. However what we really need to do is find an alternative technology for electric car batteries. Until we reach that point the best we can do is slow down the damage.
Preview Image: Concept Electric Car
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