1. Their batteries need rare metals: The primary metals in EV batteries include Nickel, Lithium, Cobalt, Copper and Rare Earth metals (Neodymium and Dysprosium). The mining of these materials, their use in manufacturing and their ultimate disposal all present significant environmental challenges.

  • Nickel: Nickel, a major component of the EV batteries, is found just below the topsoil in the Rainforests of Indonesia and the Philippines. As a result, the nickel is extracted using horizontal surface mining that results in extensive environmental degradation: deforestation and removal of the top layer of soil. It should be noted that Rainforests play a major role in “fighting climate change” by removing Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
  • Lithium: Over half of the world’s Lithium reserves are found in three South American countries that border the Andes Mountains: Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. These countries are collectively known as the “Lithium Triangle”. Chile produces the largest amount of lithium (8,800 tons pet year), with other big producers including Argentina and China, while Bolivia has the world’s largest known reserves. According to the Institute for Energy Research, Lithium is found in salt flats in very arid areas which complicates the mining process. A multi-mineral mixture containing Lithium is removed from beneath the salt flats. The Lithium extraction from the mixture is a lengthy, 12 to 18 months, evaporation process that is water intensive. Each ton of lithium produced requires 500,000 gallons of water. Besides the discarded mineral salt mixture, the process can result in water and soil contamination plus a depleted water table. It should be noted that the United States is 4th in total Lithium reserves behind the Lithium Triangle countries.
  • Cobalt: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) produces 70% of the world’s Cobalt. While there is no shortage of environmental issues with its Cobalt mining, the overriding problem here is human rights: dangerous working conditions and the use of child labor. Cobalt is a toxic metal. Prolonged exposure and inhalation of Cobalt dust can lead to health issues of the eyes, skin, and lungs. Because Cobalt can be easily extracted from the ground by hand, small scale, bare-bones “artisanal” mines are common. The simplicity of the operation discourages/negates the need for occupational safety measures and encourages the use of child labor. Small-scale mining in the DRC involves people of all ages, including children, obligated to work under harsh conditions. Of the 255,000 Congolese mining for cobalt, 40,000 are children, some as young as six years. According to Amnesty International thousands of children mine cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite the potentially fatal health effects of prolonged exposure to cobalt, adult and child miners work without even the most basic protective equipment. The “suspect” (bad) Cobalt is mixed in with the “legitimate” (good) Cobalt that comes from the large-scale mines that have the required safety standards and employ only adults. This co-mingling of “good” and “bad” Cobalt serves to mask the human rights abuses in the country’s mining operations. As it turns out, however, this charade is largely unnecessary since the majority of the DRC’s cobalt mines are owned or financed by Chinese firms. Eighty percent of the DRC’s Cobalt ultimately ends up in China
  • Copper: Chile is the leading producer of the world’s Copper. The vast majority of Chile’s Copper comes from open-pit/strip mines. This type of mining negatively affects vegetation, topsoil, wildlife habitats, and groundwater. The next three largest producers of copper are Peru, China, and the infamous Democratic Republic of the Congo. Number five happens to be the United States. Several states in particular, such as Minnesota and Arizona, show promise as new sources for domestic copper using underground mining instead of open-pit mining.

Europe we will struggle to create large numbers of electric cars in Europe in the near term, simply because it doesn’t have sufficient access to sources of lithium to make the batteries and it doesn’t have the factories to make them in either.

2. Making electric cars creates more emissions: To get an idea of how much greenhouse gas is emitted during the manufacture of an electric car, one has to look how its components are sourced and made. The raw materials for making the car have to be mined and the process of mining creates a lot of greenhouse gases. Then the raw materials have to be refined before they can be used , which again emits more greenhouse gas. Then more greenhouse gas is emitted in the manufacturing process. Making electric car releases roughly the same amount of CO2 (7 to 10 tons) as a petrol or diesel car and then one has to add the production of the battery. Estimates suggest that 150kg of CO2 are released for every 1 kiloWatt hour (kWh) of battery capacity. For an electric car to have a decent range (say 500 km) between charges, it needs a battery that’s at least 60 kWh in capacity. This means that a further 9 tons of CO2 will be emitted during the making of an electric car, giving a total of 16-10 tons of CO2 emitted. So at this point an electric car seems worse for the environment than a fossil fuel one.

3. They are only as green as their power source: The environmental impact of an electric car can increase or decrease considerably depending on how the electricity that charges its battery is made. A coal-fired power station emits 800-850 grams of CO2 per kWh (recent estimates suggest this may be lower, at 650 g per kWh), whilst a  cleaner, gas-fired power stations emits 350-400g CO2 per kWh. Using renewable energy, like solar panels or wind turbines, around 36g CO2 is emitted per kWh, taking into account the emissions created during the manufacturing process. So if a car is recharged using renewable energy, its negative impact on the environment is far lower than if it’s charged using electricity from a coal-fired power station.

4. EVs, electricity prices aren't immediately available to consumers. Moreover, there are various methods of charging EVs, whether at home with a conventional outlet, at home with a faster-charging wall box, out and about at a public medium-speed charging station, or off the highway at a direct current (DC) fast-charging station. Each method has its own installation and upkeep costs that must be accounted for, in addition to the price of delivering the electricity itself. The cost of charging differs radically across Europe. Approximate costs are about 50% greater in Germany, Italy, and Denmark as they are in Poland or Norway, for example. Second, the costs of charging escalate with the speed of charging. For example, charging at home with a conventional outlet, adding about 3-5 miles of range per hour, generally costs between 0.10 and 0.20 Euros per kilowatt-hour (kWh). So fully charging an 80 kWh battery (roughly 480 km miles of range depending upon the car) costs between €8 and €16 with this method. On the other hand, charging at home about six to ten times more quickly with a wall box costs between 0.20 and 0.35 Euros per kWh when factoring in the installation costs, making a complete charge tally in at €16 to €28 if installation costs are averaged over the life of a vehicle. Outside of the home at a DC fast charger, 'filling up' an EV from 5% to 80% capacity in roughly 20 - 45 minutes (depending upon the car), costs between €0.40 and €0.65 per kilowatt-hour. So that rapid charge totals about €24 to €39. For comparison, a mid-size gas car in Europe with a 50-liter tank (about 720 kms of range) cost between €55 and €86 to fill up. So using average European gas prices from 2019, a comparable EV would cost about 72-78% less to charge at home with a conventional outlet, 51-56% less to charge at home with a wall box, and 9-13% less to charge at a DC fast-charger. These prices were tabulated based on data from 2019, so electricity and fuel costs have risen significantly since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, altering the arithmetic here. But we can certainly say that three years ago EVs were cheaper to fuel compared to ICE cars in Europe, especially if you do most of your charging at home.

5. You can’t drive as far in an electric car: Battery technology is improving all the time. The best electric cars now have ranges of well over 480km between charges. But many have a range of just 240 km or less between charges, which means they much more suited for use in cities and on short local journeys, rather than for long distance travel.  And to recharge them, they need at least half an hour of charging at a dedicated high voltage charging point- the kind seen at motorway services. Compare that with the time it takes to fill the tank of a petrol or diesel-engine car and the fact that many new cars can now go 800 km or more between refills and it’s obvious that fossil fuels still have a distinct advantage in this area. Using the heater or AC in an electric car will also have an impact on their range, and batteries hold less charge when it’s cold.

6. There are not enough charging points: According to the Electric Vehicle Database, the average battery range of EVs currently sits at a comfortable 326 km. But a cross-border European road trip would require topping up along the way, and the infrastructure across the continent remains patchy in many areas. Not only are charging stations very unevenly distributed, but the providers and payment systems differ too. The Europe’s EV charging infrastructure is very uneven. The EU has more than 330,000 publicly accessible charging points, and that number is growing, but their uneven deployment means “travel across the EU in electric vehicles is not easy. Just three countries – Germany, France and the Netherlands – account for 69 per cent of all charging points across the EU, while 10 European countries do not have a single charger per 100 km of road. The European Commission has a target of hitting 1 million charging points by 2025, but the target risked being missed if deployment continues to follow current trends. It estimated that roughly 150,000 new points would be needed each year almost 3,000 a week – to close the gap. There are disparities within countries, too, with cities much better covered than rural areas. This is especially the case in Eastern Europe. Half of Slovakia’s EVs, for instance, are registered in the capital Bratislava, a city also home to a third of the country’s charging points. It serves the vast majority of users the vast majority of the time. But it's not adequate for long-distance travel and people who live in villages. Adding to the confusion, there are dozens of charging station operators across Europe, alongside Tesla’s proprietary network, which is only just starting to open up to npn-Tesla vehicles. Many charging operators work with subscriptions, but non-members can pay “roaming” fees to use other networks. Fortunately, there are dedicated apps that help drivers navigate this jungle and map their journey, such as PlugShare and Chargemap. With a card costing just under €20 a month, Chargemap users can access more than 600 operators (including Ionity, Fastned, EVBox Allego and New Motion) and some 230,000 charging points across Europe. These charging operators all have different rates, but the single badge makes it easier to track the invoices incurred by each top-up, and you don’t need to juggle between subscriptions. It can also help companies control the costs incurred by their electric fleets. Chargemap already has some 400 business clients that use its badges like company fuel cards. Public stations actually only account for about 15 per cent of the overall number of charging points in the EU. The vast majority of EV charging occurs in private residential or commercial buildings, and that’s where ChargeUp Europe sees the most opportunity for growth. Because electricity is so ubiquitous across the EU, the EV charging industry would like to see regulatory barriers taken down so that charging points can be set up much more easily in more places, including in older European neighbourhoods with strict urban planning rules and fire codes.

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