My Linkedin stream offers me the latest volley of the Oil lobby ongoing campaign to discredit electric cars. So, I decided to pretend this is NOT a sponsored hit piece (dezinformatsiya) and respond factually.
What does this short video say?
No such thing as zero emission, all you do is export them somewhere else.
TRUE but FALSE
“Zero emission” should really be called “Zero LOCAL emissions”, as indeed no form of mobility could be called “zero emissions” in the strictest sense. Even walking produced emissions because the human body generates CO2 as a breathing waste by-product.
Electric mobility is no exception: the energy fed into the battery must be generated and the car itself must be manufactured and disposed of at the end of its useful life, all processes that create emissions.
However, innumerable scientific studies have calculated that the LCA (Lifecycle Assessment) emissions of an electric car are between 50% (worst case) and 80% lower (best case) than an IC car (the precise position in the range depending on the carbon intensity in a given country) and the gap is widening due to the progressive decarb of the electric grid all around the world.
The conclusion is that while nobody can claim overall zero emissions, EV’s cause as much as 80% LESS emissions than ICE cars.
Harmful mining impact
FALSE (CHERRY-PICKING FACTOIDS)
This is a rather mixed statement, supported by disastrously wrong visuals. The cherry picked factoid is obvious: no human activity involving the exploitation of natural resources is without environmental impact. That includes building an electric car.
So let’s get this out of the way: mining ANY ore from the ground has an environmental impact. In fact, the oil industry should first and foremost worry about the devastating impact of its own activity for example in terms of methane flaring or leakage from spent wells or oil spillages.
However, Lithium is particularly innocent in this respect. It is extracted from natural salty brines, with a process that reminds us of how salt is extracted from the sea: you let seawater evaporate in a shallow basin and refine the resulting sodium chloride. In the case of Lithium the brines are underground, get pumped up to surface, Lithium is extracted and Lithium-poorer brine is re-injected where it came from.
The horrific images of open-pit wastelands used as background imagery with huge dump trucks carrying enormous loads of dirty ore around are actually taken from COAL mines.
Real Lithium extracting facilities like the one in Smackover, AK are rather boring industrial buildings with no discernible extraordinary environmental impact
Industrial Scale Demonstration Plant located at LANXESS South Plant
Raw materials scarcity
Intertwined with the “mining impact” storyline we have another linked to the scarcity of the raw materials used to manufacture EVs. This is a topic we covered multiple times (for example you can read a more detailed discussion here) but to sum-up: No, we’re not running out of anything; to give a scale of how this problem is not a problem at all, please consider that at current consumption levels we would run out of Lead (used in 12V batteries) and Palladium (used in catalytic converters) much sooner than we would run out of Lithium.
The reality of the mining industry is that it mines ore as close to its forecasted demand, to avoid depressing prices; the more demand there is, the more ore it’s mined. Obviously there’s a significant lag due to the lead time in putting more mining capacity online, but what are witnessing now is a structural increase in demand (not a spike) to which the mining and battery manufacturing industries are responding in earnest, with the net effect of per kWh battery costs have been trending downwards
and new battery manufacturing projects are popping up almost daily
It takes 100 barrels of oil to manufacture a battery that contains 1 barrel of oil
This is a claim that has been making the rounds in fossil-inspired think tanks (like the Manhattan Institute) but I am not aware of any peer-reviewed scientific study supporting this statement; however, let’s take it at face value anyway: a car which drives 100,000 km would therefore consume 100 barrels of oil (to make the battery) if electric and 100,000/12/70 = 120 barrels (to make the gasoline) so, roughly the same.
The key differences are that, at the end of these 100,000km:
- the electric car can easily run another 100k without consuming a drop of oil more, while the IC car will require another 120 barrels.
- the electric car leaves behind about 0.5 tons of “waste” which can be economically recycled or re-used, the IC car will have spewed 12-18 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere without any hope of recuperation (unless you’re dumb enough to believe that Direct Air Capture will ever work)