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EV Eco Impact Report 2024

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Photo by Kelly on Pexels.com


This document highlights some of the concerns about the environmental and human impact of electric vehicle production.

Closed Loop Lifecycle

As much as possible, a closed loop lifecycle should be the goal for EV manufacturing. While materials will be brought into the manufacturing process, reuse and recycling of those materials going forward would reduce the demand for non-renewable resources such as the lithium, nickel, and other minerals required for battery production.

An example of this is the product lifecycle that Apple has developed where recycled materials are used to produce new products and when those products are replaced, they are disassembled by robots to recover the recyclable materials that can be used again for manufacturing.

Initial materials need to be sourced or mined, but hopefully once demand is met, recycling can provide for future needs.

Change in Mindset

A change in business mindset will be needed. Companies must stop producing products that are difficult to repair. Also, product features, product stability, and product security aspects need to accommodate ongoing updates to avoid short-term obsolescence.

So, rather than putting profits over people (and the planet), companies need to look for other ways to maintain profits that don’t compromised product longevity.

An example would be printer manufacturers. In the past, printers were inexpensive, and the manufacturers relied on selling messy inefficient high-cost ink cartridges to produce revenue. Printer manufacturers are now reducing the cost of ink by selling inexpensive plastic bottles of ink refills that may last for years. To compensate for the lost revenue from ink cartridge sales, printer manufacturers are increasing the initial purchase price of printers.


Present-day consumer products are made to have shorter lifespans as a result of design choices, materials used, and marketing campaigns that make people feel their 3-year old smartphone is no longer useful. This is to ensure ongoing sales revenue.

Rather than manufacturing disposable cars to ensure ongoing sales revenue, auto manufacturers could build vehicles that are inexpensive to maintain and repair. Then rely on some other revenue generating source that doesn’t have a negative environmental impact.

Durability, repairability, and longevity were common selling points across numerous appliances and consumer goods from 1920 to 1950. A toaster, iron, refrigerator, lamp, tractor, or vehicle from that era would likely be working today. In some countries it’s common to see old Chevrolet sedans or trucks from the 1960s still in use. There are products that get handed down from one generation to another.

We need to return to manufacturing products that are designed to last 70 years rather than 7 years.

Easy Disassembly and Recovery

If we want to pursue a future of closed lifecycle manufacturing with recycled materials, we need to make sure that it’s easy to recover all reusable materials from consumer products.


Bloomberg (17 Jun 2024)

“The Deadly Mining Complex Powering the EV Revolution” — Nickel is a critical component of the batteries that power electric cars, and Indonesia has become a global giant in producing the mineral. But there is a dirty and sometimes deadly secret behind this success story. Environmentalists accuse Indonesia’s nickel industry of flouting regulations intended to protect ecologically sensitive islands, and fatal accidents at Chinese-owned mining facilities are not uncommon. Bloomberg News looks into how a key part of the green transition is coming with such a high price. [Source]

PBS (25 Jan 2024)

“How demand for lithium batteries could drain America’s water resources” — The push towards a green, battery-powered future comes with a major tradeoff. Student reporters from the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at Arizona State University discovered that increased mining for lithium inside the United States will stress freshwater aquifers. Caitlin Thompson has their investigation. [Source]

Financial Times (20 Dec 2023)

“The end of the combustion engine?” — Across the globe, billions are being invested in the electrification of the car industry. Governments have put future bans on the sale of internal combustion engines, but recently we’ve seen politicians backtracking a little on the issue. Also, there are still huge infrastructure and cost challenges ahead for EVs. So, are reports about the death of the internal combustion engine a little premature? [Source]

Financial Times (19 Nov 2023)

“Inside the global race for lithium batteries” — Lithium is the ‘new oil’ of the clean energy era, crucial to the production of batteries for electric vehicles. The FT investigates this booming industry – and the controversies surrounding it – on a journey from Chile to Norway and the UK. [Source]

Insider News (13 Jul 2023)

“The True Cost of Lithium Mining” — With demand for electric batteries sky high, mining companies are making their move on the salt flats of the Andes, where over half of the world’s known reserves of lithium are stored. But local people are concerned about damage to their scarce water supplies and that they will not benefit from the white gold rush occurring in their own backyard. [Source]

CNBC (5 Jun 2023)

“Why The EV Industry Is Betting On This Lithium Mining Breakthrough” — A suite of new, but largely unproven, technologies known as direct lithium extraction could revolutionize lithium mining from brine, making it more efficient and sustainable and eliminating the need for large evaporation ponds. A number of companies including EnergyX, Lilac Solutions, and Standard Lithium are entering the DLE market and getting ready for commercial implementation across South America and the U.S., while automakers like BMW, GM and Ford are investing. [Source]

CNBC (3 Jun 2023)

“How Lithium Producer Albemarle Took Over The EV Industry” — Demand for lithium, a key component for electric vehicle batteries, is expected to surge from 500,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate in 2021 to three to four million metric tons by 2030, according to McKinsey & Company. Albemarle, the world’s top producer of this critical metal and the operator of mines in Australia, Chile and the U.S., says it plans to bring another domestic lithium mine online by 2027 — Kings Mountain in North Carolina. [Source]

Carter Rosenthal (24 May 2023)

“Misperception of Electric Vehicles’ Environmental Benefit” — With his research of electric vehicle emissions and their misperceptions, Carter aims to reduce environmental impacts from the transportation sector. Carter Rosenthal is a senior at Seabury Hall and is actively involved in local environmental sustainability programs, the Seabury Theater Department as an Audio Engineer and Light Designer, baseball, music, photography, and videography. His favorite subjects are those focused on environmental studies and energy conservation. He has been involved in TEDx since Middle School and co-organized the Seabury Hall event from 2019-2021. He is speaking at this year’s event in hopes to increase awareness of unintentional environmental degradation by offering a unique perspective on electric vehicles. With his research of electric vehicle emissions and their misperceptions, Carter aims to reduce environmental impacts from the transportation sector. [Source]

60 Minutes (9 May 2023)

“California’s Lithium Valley could power electric vehicle industry” — As the U.S. auto industry goes green, companies are developing lithium extraction for batteries in California’s Imperial Valley. Bill Whitaker reports. [Source]

CNBC (12 Apr 2023)

“How Silicon Anode Batteries Will Bring Better Range To EVs” — Lithium-ion battery performance has reached a plateau in recent years, but a breakthrough in battery technology is about to change that. Using silicon instead of graphite, the commonly used material in battery anodes today, enables significantly higher energy density and faster charging. The new tech has attracted the attention of big players such as GM, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Airbus. CNBC spoke with three companies working on silicon anodes — Sila Nanotechnologies, Amprius Technologies and Group14 Technologies, to learn how the new batteries will transform electric vehicles, consumer electronics and more. [Source]

PBS (24 Jan 2023)

“Salton Sea lithium deposits could help EV transition, support economically devastated area” — The demand for electric vehicles is surging in the U.S., sparked in part by the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act and the subsidies it offers. But a looming supply shortage of lithium threatens to stall the EV transition. Stephanie Sy traveled to California’s Salton Sea where lithium deposits could help meet the country’s energy needs and support an economically devastated region. [Source]

Bloomberg (21 Jul 2022)

“How Cheap Hydrogen Could Become the Next Clean Fuel” — Startups around the world are working on new ways of producing hydrogen, a clean alternative to fossil fuels that could one day power the grid, transportation and heavy industry. [Source]

CNBC (4 May 2022)

“How The Troubled Salton Sea Could Become The World’s Largest Lithium Supplier” — In and around the shrinking, toxic Salton Sea, there’s enough lithium to meet the United States’ entire projected demand and fuel the electric vehicle revolution. Three companies are working to demonstrate new lithium extraction technologies in the area, and if their tech works at scale, it could produce the greenest lithium that the world has ever seen. [Source]

The Guardian (24 Feb 2022)

“How green are electric cars?” — There’s no denying that electric vehicles are what most of us will be driving in the near-future. Countries around the world have pledged to phase out the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles over the next few decades, in an effort to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. [Source]

CBS (24 Jan 2022)

“California’s next big valley, “Lithium Valley,” powering electric car future” — Long a hub of geothermal power production, a forgotten backwater of Southern California known as the Salton Sea, is a bountiful reservoir of lithium, is being dubbed “Lithium Valley.” The silvery-white metal is now in huge demand as it is used in electric vehicle batteries. Ben Tracy reports. [Source]

Jason Fenske (17 Sep 2021)

“Is Keeping Your Old Car Better For The Environment?” — Is it better for the environment to keep your car that already works, thus not creating something new and using new resources, or to buy something new that’s more efficient? Gas cars require less emissions to produce than electric cars, so out of the gate they’re more environmentally friendly. However, gasoline cars produce far more emissions while in use, versus electric cars, so eventually the scales tilt in favor of EVs. But is it within a meaningful amount of time, or should we simply be preventing the creation of new waste, by keeping and maintaining what we already have? And what about all of those metals required for EV batteries? In this video we’ll focus on both the emissions and the resources, to determine if you should keep your used car, or buy a new car, as it relates to going green. [Source]

Jason Fenske (5 Feb 2020)

“Why Gas Engines Are Far From Dead” — Why are car manufacturers still improving and spending money on combustion engines in the year 2020? Should all development research be going into electric cars and electric vehicle technology? Unfortunate news if you think ICE transportation is going away in the near future to be solely replaced by electric vehicles (EVs). The internal combustion engine is still incredibly relevant today, and can still use further improvements in order to reduce global emissions. In this video we’ll discuss scientific issues facing electric cars, environmental problems with ditching combustion engine research, how cost impacts customer decisions and manufacturer profits, and ultimately how consumer choice plays a large role in this industry. If you’ve ever wondered why combustion engines are still being developed, this video breaks down all the details. [Source]

Jason Fenske (31 Oct 2018)

“Are Electric Cars Worse For The Environment? Myth Busted” — Electric cars are touted as a solution for reducing emissions and improving the environmental impacts of transportation, but are electric cars actually any better for the environment than gasoline cars? This video looks to answer three main questions: (1) Doesn’t EV battery production cause a lot of emissions? (2) Don’t electric cars get their power from fossil fuels? (3) Isn’t lithium mining terrible for the environment? [Source]

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com