Concerns about EVs often revolve around lithium, a crucial metal used in batteries. People argue that the environmental friendliness of EVs is undermined by their dependence on lithium, which is a scarce and environmentally harmful metal.
The main premise is that the mining required for lithium extraction makes EVs less eco-friendly than conventional cars. However, this argument ignores the fact that EVs don’t rely on mined resources for daily recharging, unlike conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
Transport and Environment, a clean transport campaign group in Europe, highlighted this point in a report from March 2021. The image at the top of the screen was taken from the 2021 report. The image shows how EVs consume 99% less raw materials than ICE vehicles over their lifetimes.
Critics of EVs also point out the difficulties of recycling lithium-ion EV batteries, which necessitates more lithium mining. It’s true that at the moment, new EV batteries require more lithium mining. However, major strides are being made in the lithium-ion recycling industry.
Just this week, Cirba Solutions announced that it was spending $200 million to expand its lithium-ion battery recycling plant in Lancaster, Ohio. On the research side, scientists have developed a new cathode refurbishing method that causes recycled batteries to last longer and charge more quickly than new batteries.
As time goes on, new EV batteries will incorporate more and more recycled parts, reducing the need for newly mined resources. This is an advantage that ICE vehicles will never have.
EV critics also advance the argument of “carbon debt,” stating that EVs often have a higher carbon footprint during production than ICE vehicles. However, studies have shown that EVs can offset this carbon reliance after several years of driving (with the exact duration varying depending on the specific model). ICE vehicles cannot make the same claim.
Lithium mining does indeed have negative environmental impacts, such as soil degradation, water depletion, and biodiversity loss. Even still, EVs powered by lithium remain much more environmentally friendly than their ICE counterparts. As researchers develop new battery technologies that reduce the need for lithium, the environmental advantages of EVs will only become greater.
Image Source: Open Power Electronics, https://shorturl.at/bEV19