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Kelly Kleinman

Kelly Kleinman Digital Content Director

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EVs and Hybrids Aren’t Green, Not Even Close

Swedish meta-study, which analyzes and summarizes studies completed  in the EV field, found that around 150 to 200 kgs of CO2 equivalents (environmental impact equivalent to that of the release of CO2) are produced for every kilowatt hour (kWh) storage capacity of electric car batteries.

The impact isn’t due to any kind of vehicle emissions, and doesn’t even taken into consideration the incremental pollution to landfills from dead batteries. Rather, it’s all about the source of extraction of raw materials including lithium from mines, the processing of raw materials, and production of lithium-ion batteries in factories.

Ironically, a gas powered engine can run for 8 years until it has the same environmental impact as a Tesla Model X. Since the Nissan Leaf has a smaller battery, it takes 3 years to have equivalent impact. That’s the ugly truth folks. For those of us who proudly drive our hybrids and EVs due to environmental concerns (sorry Larry David), we’re driving an illusion. My chosen illusion is that I’m sticking it to OPEC by using less gas.

According to Mia Romare, one of the researchers; “Unnecessarily large batteries weigh more on the environment. One should therefore consider whether one can manage with smaller batteries.”

Even Toyota admits it’s production of the Prius Hybrid emits more CO2 than it’s conventional models due to more advanced componentry which includes a smaller gas engine, and large lithium battery packs.

A 2013 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment program concluded that batteries using nickel and cobalt, (lithium-ion batteries), have the “highest potential for environmental impacts”.  It cited negative consequences like mining, global warming (conflicting data here), environmental pollution and human health impacts.

Although lithium-ion batteries are considered non-hazardous waste, would you be willing to filter drinking water through a funnel consisting of 1,000 lithium-ion batteries and not fear for your life?

The reason why more lithium ion batteries aren't recycled boils down to simple economics: the scrap value of batteries fails the economy of scale test - at $100 per ton, Conversely, the cost of collecting, sorting and shipping used batteries to a recycling center is greater than the scrap value (BRP>SV), so batteries are classified as garbage by you and I. What’s sadly overlooked is that the industry does not factor in the fact that recycling battery metal material like cobalt has a much lower economic and environmental impact than mining raw materials.

The reality is that there will never be a fully environmentally safe technology to replace the combustion engine until either free energy is harnessed or solar energy moves a quantum leap forward. 120 years ago, the streets were covered in horse crap. It was a huge issue as cities stunk to high heaven from road apples and dead horses. The car was supposed to alleviate the issue of such “pollution”, and it did...for a while. The ironic twist is that our green solution - to our green solution of 120 years ago isn’t green at all, regardless of how the media labels it as such.

 

Kelly Kleinman

Sherri Riggs

I can see how electric vehicles might be misleading in terms of how "green" they are... BUT mile-per-mile there are many sources that show EV's are still better for the environment than gas powered cars. 

Kelly Kleinman

The point is that for the first 8 years, most are not in terms of CO2 emissions. After 8 years, they are better.  At some point, when there are no gas powered cars left (sooner the better), we'll all be better off.

 

Mastermines - David Gillam

Quite frankly I do not believe it. An ICE has around 2500 moving parts in the drive train compared to around 250 for an EV. Where can I see the full report, because without seeing their numbers I would take it with a grain of salt. The truth is that western analysts have very little knowledge of new energy because the Chinese are beating the world at it and they never get to see it.

They may not know for example that around 20,000t of lithium will be recovered this year from recycling and expected to grow to 50,000t by 2020. Or how much the air quality has improved in Shenzhen where all buses are now electric and 60% of taxis (100% by 2020). Which pollution are they talking about? General air pollution or roadside pollution. Recharging from coal fired power stations or solar and wind.

The transition to new energy will never be as good at the start but I trust little research such as this and wonder also where funding comes from.

Full report and who provided funding and I'd be happy to look through it

https://twitter.com/LithiumWorld

Kelly Kleinman

The article states it's in the manufacturing process.  But, for your concern, here is a breakdown on why they aren't green from one of several online sources that also apparently sites other sources.  Just possibly, EVs are less brown.

https://www.masterresource.org/electric-vehicles/evs-co2-rethink/

Mastermines - David Gillam

Thanks Kelly for the link although it tells us very little. For example hey talk a lot about the manufacturing cost of an EV but where are the comparison tables of an ICE? Are they comparing a Tesla S to a Ferrari or small city ICE? Interesting as performance is similar. Where are their tables showing how they arrived at such a wondrous conclusion.

In addition they mention battery recycling and that they have no figures which makes me wonder where their grab samples of data came from. The Chinese will recycle 20,000 tons of lithium this year building to 50,000 by 2020 while the west is talking as though it's not something happening now and sure to be fully implemented in the future.

I can only conclude from the missing information that the whole report is a nonsense. Directly comparing the manufacture of an ICE with an EV and then tracking the first 10 years with supporting comparison data is the only way such reports should be taken seriously. What I see is a comparison of the final figures for building an EV only. Where is the rest of the data?

A report on EV's can never be taken in isolation. An EV is just one part of a revolution in new energy. In the beginning it will always take time to see the full benefit  That is true of any disruptive technology and you can be very sure that this is what we're seeing. How much would the first P.C pollute with a 20MB hard drive compared to a P.C today with 1TB if we factored in pollution per storage size? You simply cannot take a single snapshot without looking at the whole story.

What I can tell you is that all batteries will be recycled by around 2025 and that cities like Shenzhen have had dramatic drops in roadside and general air pollution. That is not just a result of E-Buses and E-Taxis but a holistic approach to pollution.
 

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