The concept of Electric Vehicles may seem new but the truth is, it has been around for ages. First recorded use of a battery powered vehicle was in the 19th century. An American inventor invented a cabin that ran on battery power with a top speed of around 24 km/h. Since then many inventors have been toying with the different designs for an electric vehicle. By the 1900s EVs accounted for a third of all vehicles on the road. Keep in mind, most of the word was poor and horse drawn carriages were still being used as a primary mode of transport. The popularity of EVs grew over the years until in 1908, when Henry Ford, a close friend of Thomas Edison, introduced the Ford Model T, a gasoline powered car that was widely available and affordable. And since then, as we know, the fossil fuel powered vehicles have dominated while the EVs were still there, just not as popular. The main reason for this was the huge cost of production leading to high prices.
So when people realized the damage they’ve done to the environment, the EVs stood as a proud ,eco-friendly, guilt-free and responsible candidate for potential car buyers.
Toyota Prius, the first mass produced hybrid car became the car of the environmentalists, giving great material for comedians, also doing a huge favour to the environment. So a win-win there.
Electric vehicles use Lithium ion batteries, because it is the most efficient. Although many manufacturers say they produce their cars ethically and responsibly. While they are technically right in that they are not involved in the making of these batteries, they should acknowledge the fact that they are supporting cruel, unethical acts towards both the environment and people by buying these batteries. Cobalt, an important element within the Lithium ion battery, is mainly mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, responsible for 70% of the world’s cobalt. And the conditions in which the miners are working is beyond dangerous as a result of the industry’s lack of regulations. It should also be noted that there are no battery manufacturers near the DRC, so the transport of Cobalt is done by huge ships, another way of polluting the environment.
The surrounding areas of the Ganzizhou Rongda lithium mine in Tibet have been degraded. Protestors took to the streets in 2016 when fish were found floating dead in the nearby Liqi river following a toxic chemical leak from the mine.
Studies have also shown that the process of recycling batteries, even rechargeable ones, is a tedious process that leaves more percentage of waste than the actual recycled material. There’s a lot of science involved as these substances can be explosive under the wrong conditions. So the proper maintenance, processing and recycling of the waste results in huge bills which corporate companies will not be happy with. Which in turn results in shabby and shady work.
Very few companies are doing something about this, Toyota has come up with a hydrogen fuel cell car which still uses an electric motor and hydrogen instead of a battery. But unfortunately due to the shortage of Hydrogen filling stations, when I say shortage, it’s more like maybe a couple of tens around the world, these cars haven’t been a success. Popular Grand Tour presenter James May has bought one for personal use and the review has been good except for the hydrogen accessibility.
Porsche, another very successful automotive company, has started research on an alternative synthetic fuel. It can be used in normal internal combustion engines and is said to be as green as an EV. This way, people don’t have to scrap their ICE powered cars, the production of Lithium batteries can be slowed down, reducing its impact on the environment, and maybe even open up different options to mine them in an ethical and responsible manner.
We as citizens of the world should be aware of the sources from which potentially harmful elements of our lives are produced. If there is a choice, we should always make the more ethical one.
While EVs are the definite future, we have to come up with alternative ways to obtain the materials required. Keeping the future of our world in focus is key to the survival of us as the human race.