Electric Vehicles

How Much Electric Vehicles Are Environmentally Friendly?

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You probably have heard that there is a mineral issue with electric automobiles.

Electric vehicles (EVs) have been hailed as a promising solution to combat climate change and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. However, there's an ongoing debate regarding whether EVs are genuinely more environmentally friendly. In this article, we will explore the complexities of this issue and examine the environmental impact of electric vehicles.

The Mineral Conundrum

A 900-pound battery made of materials mined from around the world is located beneath the floor of an electric vehicle. Millions of tons of minerals such as lithium, cobalt, bauxite, and others are mined, processed, exported, and refined; occasionally, this leaves a trail of violations of human rights and the environment.

That, in the eyes of some, makes fossil fuel engines look good. Nobody wants to travel on cobalt-based tires that are comparable to blood diamonds. But does all this mining cancel out the advantages of EVs over gas-powered vehicles in terms of climate and the environment.

Electric Vehicles

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A Cleaner Supply Chain

I investigated how supply chains for the clean-energy economy are changing globally. As it turns out, the amount of fossil fuels required to power the world today is only a tiny portion of the need for battery minerals. While the demand for battery minerals is increasing due to the rapid growth of Electric Vehicles, it's crucial to note that the fossil fuel industry still dominates in terms of resource extraction.

But not all quantities are expressed in tons. Electric Vehicles must avoid making the same mistakes made during the first Industrial Revolution in order to live up to their clean energy promise. Miners and producers can adopt more environmentally friendly methods to obtain the materials they require and recover more of what they use.

Clean Energy Minerals vs. Fossil Fuels

The cost of battery components Steel, aluminum, copper, plastic, rubber, and glass are essential for almost all automobiles.

Compared to conventional vehicles, EVs' battery packs are where they diverge the most. A typical Electric Vehicles (EVs) with a 200-mile range carries a lithium-ion battery pack that accounts for almost a third of the vehicle's weight. The battery pack's case, structural components, and liquid electrolyte, which transports electrons around to charge and discharge the battery, account for a large portion of its weight.

However, according to Transport and Environment, a nongovernmental organization that promotes greener transportation, about 353 pounds include essential minerals or metals, including cobalt, nickel, manganese, graphite, aluminum, and copper. According to MIT, an electric vehicle requires six times more minerals than a conventional vehicle, not including steel and aluminum.

In the upcoming years, we will require a significant rise in these materials. In less than ten years, after having surpassed initial expectations, global EV sales are expected to overtake those of gas-powered vehicles. Volkswagen, Volvo, Hyundai, Honda, and more automakers made the commitment to electrify their lineup. The majority of new passenger vehicles are anticipated to be electric well before the middle of the century, as most new fossil fuel vehicles won't be sold in jurisdictions ranging from California to the European Union by 2035.

Electric Vehicles
Electric Vehicles

A Cleaner Future

According to Gerbrand Ceder, a professor of materials science at the University of California, Berkeley, "the volume is large and it's going to get very large." The amount of clean-energy minerals that the mining industry can generate is already being strained by the Gigafactories that are popping up all over the world to make batteries.

Mineral extraction is never a clean process. The Washington Post examined these issues in our "Clean Cars, Hidden Toll" series. Cobalt from the Congo, lithium and graphite from China, nickel from Indonesia and Russia, and battery supply chains that pass-through Xinjiang, in the Uyghur region where forced labor has been widespread, all have immediate issues. Guinea, which has the biggest bauxite reserves in the world for aluminum, brings agony to the indigenous populations. Indonesian nickel refineries are implementing a dangerous technology. The largest manganese producer in the world, South Africa, has neurological problems that affect its mineworkers.

These issues with the environment and society are actual. However, they pale in comparison to the track record of the oil, gas, and coal industries.

Effects of clean-energy minerals on the climate

If you plug into America's energy mix, EVs already generate less than a third of the emissions per mile compared to their gasoline counterparts on average. But what if you take into consideration the pollutants produced during EV production, recharging, and disposal?

Efforts are underway to clean up the mineral supply chain for batteries. New technologies and pressure from consumers, automakers, and nations are pushing mining companies to adopt more sustainable practices. Additionally, researchers and battery manufacturers are exploring alternatives to materials like nickel and cobalt, aiming for cheaper, safer, and more abundant options like manganese and iron.

Leasing or buying an electric vehicle


Are EVs really better for the environment than gasoline cars?

Yes, EVs have less of an overall negative impact on the environment than gasoline-powered vehicles, notwithstanding some environmental concerns.

What can be done to improve the environmental impact of EVs?

Efforts are underway to adopt cleaner mining practices, develop alternative battery materials, and enhance recycling rates for EV components.

Do EVs contribute to reduced air pollution?

Yes, using electric vehicles can considerably reduce air pollution, which is a major cause of early deaths globally, especially when they are charged using renewable energy sources.

Will the environmental benefits of EVs continue to improve in the future?

Yes, as technology advances and sustainable practices become more widespread, the environmental advantages of EVs are expected to increase over time.

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