By 2050 electric vehicles could require huge amounts of lithium for their batteries, causing damaging expansions of mining
The US’s transition to electric vehicles could require three times as much lithium as is currently produced for the entire global market, causing needless water shortages, Indigenous land grabs, and ecosystem destruction inside and outside its borders, new research finds.
It warns that unless the US’s dependence on cars in towns and cities falls drastically, the transition to lithium battery-powered electric vehicles by 2050 will deepen global environmental and social inequalities linked to mining – and may even jeopardize the 1.5C global heating target.
But ambitious policies investing in mass transit, walkable towns and cities, and robust battery recycling in the US would slash the amount of extra lithium required in 2050 by more than 90%.
In fact, this first-of-its-kind modeling shows it is possible to have more transport options for Americans that are safer, healthier and less segregated, and less harmful mining while making rapid progress to zero emissions.
The research by the Climate and Community Project and University of California, Davis, shared exclusively with the Guardian, comes at a critical juncture with the rollout of historic funding for electric vehicles through Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Acts.
Recognizing the harms of ‘white gold’
The global demand for lithium, also known as white gold, is predicted to rise over 40 times by 2040, driven predominantly by the shift to electric vehicles. Grassroots protests and lawsuits against lithium mining are on the rise from the US and Chile to Serbia and Tibet amid rising concern about the socio-environmental impacts and increasingly tense geopolitics around supply.
EDITOR: Pixie land ideas that the USA will reach Net Zero by 2050, include the fanciful idea that EV’s can assist in the “greening.” See also: https://www.euronews.com/next/2022/09/19/why-tech-companies-are-wrong-to-think-electric-cars-are-a-solution-to-climate-change
A massive toll on the environment, and poor nations.
By Thomas Duthois & Anca Ulea & Benjie Croce • Updated: 19/09/2022
When it comes to climate change, transport is one of the most important factors we need to consider.
Governments are pushing consumers to invest in cleaner, electric-powered vehicles to limit the ecological impact of our journeys.
And car manufacturers are fighting for our attention (and our money) with new technologies to get us to invest in their latest electric vehicle models.
But for Paris Marx, author of the book ‘Road to Nowhere,’ these companies are mistaken in their tech approach.
Transport shapes society
Transport plays a crucial role in our daily lives and, by extension, in the way our cities are designed and built.
“It’s how we get around, it’s how we get to work, how we get to the shop, how we see the people that we care about,” said Marx.
And so, for them, the predominant mode of transport determines how we shape our streets, the location of businesses, workplaces and homes.
Electric cars are not the solution: road to nowhere
Tech companies offer to replace – little by little – vehicles equipped with internal combustion engines, which are considered too polluting, with electric vehicles which have a much lower carbon footprint.
But lower doesn’t mean zero either.
It’s true that fully electric vehicles do not emit waste products but the batteries that supply energy to the vehicle are made of minerals like lithium and cobalt which have an impact on climate change.
“In order to create an electric car, a lot of minerals need to be mined and much of that will continue to happen in the global south. And those mines have incredible environmental and health impacts in the places that they exist,” explained Marx.
The priority should therefore not be to replace every car with its electric equivalent but rather to rethink mobility in general.