January 2, 2017

That’s Right: Electric Vehicles Are Not Good For The Environment


A recent Wall Street Journal report has reinforced that electric vehicles remain “unpopular with buyers and unprofitable for sellers.”

What auto makers haven’t shown is that they can actually sell these vehicles and earn real profits.

Apart from being unpopular and unprofitable, the one upside with electric vehicles seemed to be the claim that they are an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional automobiles.

That long held argument is now rapidly unraveling.

A recent Washington Post investigation has uncovered that Tesla Motors, which only manufactures electric vehicles, is now trying to find a more environmentally friendly and morally acceptable supply chain for its rare earth. Rare earth is a critical compound in Tesla vehicles, especially its lithium batteries. The mining and processing of rare earth is tied to claims of child labor and human rights violations far from the consumers of Tesla’s luxury brand:

The mining companies tied to these problems supply some of the largest manufacturers of ­lithium-ion batteries, The Post found. And some of those battery makers directly supply Tesla and other big tech giants. In response to these concerns, Tesla denied that the sources of its battery materials are tainted by abuses. At the same time, the company declined to identify what those sources are.

It’s a very public secret that the rare earth used in electric vehicles comes at a high environmental cost:

But those rare metals come from somewhere—often, from environmentally destructive mines. It’s not just Tesla, of course. All electric vehicles rely on parts with similar environmental issues. Even solar panels depend on rare metals that have to be dug out of the earth and processed in less-than-green ways, says David Abraham, author of the book The Elements of Power.

It’s not just rare earth but also the copper that is used in electric vehicles that presents real environmental challenges:

An average American car contains about 55 pounds of copper wiring. An electric car has three times as much mostly thanks to their rotors, and here’s how those miles of wire disappear in an engine bay.

Environmentalist ideologues of the left like Bill McKibben seem comfortable, or blissfully ignorant of, the nightmarish environmental cost electric vehicles present to communities and people who are far from the liberal enclaves of sun soaked Silicon Valley or a cozy corner of Vermont.