How Environmentally Are Electric Vehicles?


And as much as 70 percent of the world’s cobalt supply is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; it is mined in significant proportions in unregulated “artisanal” mines, where workers—including many children—dig metal from the ground using only hand tools. human rights groups warn about their health and safety.

The world’s lithium is mined either in Australia or from salt flats in the Andean regions of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. use large amounts of groundwater Pumping brine by drawing water available to local farmers and herders. Water required for battery production, electric vehicle production about 50 percent more water dense more than conventional internal combustion engines. Rare earth deposits concentrated in China are generally contains radioactive substances may emit radioactive water and dust.

Automakers and other manufacturers that initially focused on cobalt have committed to removing “artisanal” cobalt from their supply chains, and have also said they will develop batteries that reduce or completely eliminate cobalt. But this technology is still in development, and the prevalence of these mines means these commitments are “unrealistic,” says Mickaël Daudin of Pact, a nonprofit that works with mining communities in Africa.

Instead, Mr. Daudin said manufacturers should work with these mines to reduce their environmental footprint and ensure miners operate in safe conditions. He said the rise of electric vehicles would be a huge opportunity for countries like Congo if companies acted responsibly. But if they don’t, they “will put the environment and the lives of many miners at risk.”

As the previous generation of electric vehicles are coming to the end of their life, preventing the accumulation of used batteries presents a challenge.

Most of today’s electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries, which can store more energy than older, more widely used lead-acid battery technology in the same field. However, 99 percent of lead-acid batteries recycled in the United StatesEstimated recycling rates for lithium-ion batteries about 5 percent.

Experts point out that used batteries contain precious metals and other materials that can be recovered and reused. Depending on the process used, battery recycling can use large amounts of water or emit air pollutants.


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