The electric vehicle and the dirty battery.
We are continually told that one answer to our so called global issues will be found in the Electrical Vehicle (EV) a solution for today and the future that will help save the planet. Most internal combustion engine powered vehicles carry a lead-acid battery. Lead-acid batteries are cheap to replace, perform well in all temperatures, and don’t put drivers at risk if they’re not charged properly.
There are some pros & cons with lead-acid batteries, they are cheaper to manufacture as well as being recyclable. But recycling comes with a couple of problems attached, this process often ends up being done by workers in developing countries employing unsafe methods.
Some recent investigations carried out in Kenya have revealed debilitating and even fatal lead poisoning for workers. Richer nations in the west have strict health & safety regulations that require more careful and expensive processing which causes batteries being exporting to places with fewer or no regulations at all.
Car companies are using lithium-ion batteries to run their EV’s. Looking again at the pros & cons, these batteries are lighter and can store a longer charge, but they can be up to 14 times more expensive than a lead-acid version, the cost is one issue but if damaged, the highly reactive lithium inside the battery can explode.
Lithium-ion cells are manufactured with non-renewable rare metals, which are environmentally hazardous to mine. Miners, and in some situations, illegal child labourers, operate under harsh conditions to extract these metals.
That leaves the environmental, well-intentioned EV owner with a difficult choice. Do you buy the EV to minimize your carbon footprint but with the knowledge of the human suffering and environmental damage it takes to make the EV battery?
The real question to answer is, when will the battery be clean and what will the cost be? There are some attempts but still in development currently, to answer that question.
A solid-state version, supercapacitors and batteries that run on carbon and water.
There are heaps of investors racing to find the perfect solution that have according to reports, invested a record U.S.$1 billion in advancing the next-generation battery technology in 2018.
That’s already double that of 2017, and we’re only half way into this year.
Not one of these battery concepts is mature enough to even come close to powering something like a car just yet with a lot more development, time, and money required and there is no indication what they will cost.
Currently, all the focus is on the lithium-ion batteries taking the lion share of the funding over the last 24 months. Moving the money to greener technologies is what is needed to develop an advanced battery technology to really make EV become fully clean.