Are Electric Vehicles a Disaster?

I continually hear all the reasons freeing us up from using petroleum is a disaster. Last night (in coast-to-coast-am) I heard another “electric vehicles are a disaster” presentation. While there were some valid concerns, the guy was missing the big picture.His two biggest concerns seemed to be:

  1. Alternative energy (wind and solar) are not reliable
  2. Cobalt mining (for batteries) amounts to child abuse

While there are lots of ways to address the first point, the most obvious is to use batteries. That takes us to the second point. Let’s concentrate on that as he was totally missing the point.

When we use petroleum it is consumed to produce energy. What’s left is air pollution and basically nothing else. This is not the case with a battery. Once built, it is charged and discharged over a period of years. When it is finally “used up” it can be and, generally, will be recycled. Thus, the lithium, the cobalt and such will be recovered and used to make a new battery.

In addition, battery technology continues to advance. Both battery life increases and the amount of scarce resources (such as rare earth metals) used to make batteries continues to increase.

Another thing not being considered is that electric vehicles use less energy per passenger mile. The first reason is efficiency. A typical internal combustion engine is around 20% efficient. Electric motors are way over 90% efficient. In addition, there is no energy usage when the vehicle is not moving with electric vehicles.

If electric vehicles are bad, fine but let’s actually look at the facts, not the emotion and the oil company position.

15 April 2021 update: It appears the important players (Tesla with VW far behind) have decided that LiFePO4 batteries or something close to that (in other words, cobalt-free) are sufficient for all but the batteries for the highest performance vehicles. So, the market has caused a move away from scarce resources. I think this trend will continue.