As we move closer and closer to the reality of what increasingly looks like it will turn out to be millions and millions of EVs and PHEVs, many of them, at least to start, powered by lithium-ion batteries, discussion and debate about global lithium supplies is beginning to intensify — as it should.
A solar-charged electric car with lithium batteries represents a light-years improvement on the consumption end over gas-powered cars. But I’m definitely concerned about:
a) how much lithium there is, and the supplies of other raw materials which might be used for contemporary and future EV battery packs;
b) the environmental — and political and economic — impact of lithium mining, much of which, it would appear will potentially be done in poor countries such as Bolivia.
I don’t want one form of modern industrial rape and exploitation of the earth and indigenous peoples to be replaced by another — all in the name of “greening” the world.
I’m not saying this is what is happening, or what will happen.
A solar-charged EV with lithium batteries represents a light-years improvement on the consumption end over gas-powered cars.
That said, I’m hoping that in contrast to the past when we generally ploughed ahead with “progress” without asking about the costs of that progress until after we made “progress”, we — as concerned and aware — envrionmental consumers and individuals will take a critical look at things like lithium supply, the supply of raw materials for solar panels, etc.
If we don’t, it’s hard to see how those of us pushing for a more sustainable approach to living are any better than many of those who have pushed the fossil-fuel revolution and relentless, unsustainable global growth.
The good news is that it would appear that in terms of lithium, there is enough to get humanity onto an EV — ideally a renewable energy charged — EV track, at least according to a recent blog entry written by Michal Wolkin, Ph.D., Head of Battery Technologies for the Automotive Alliances, for the Better Place Blog.
Yes, Wolkin has a perspective on the issue — she’s pushing for sustainable transportation. But her numbers and sources seem solid and reputable.
The most important point she makes is the recyclability of lithium batteries. Their recyclability means recycling will over-take original extraction of lithium as a primary source of batteries. This will substantially expand the longevitity of lithium as a major component in our automotive-centered modern lifestyle.
Can’t recycle a barrel of oil burned by a fossil-fuel-powered car, can you?