A 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.