Letter: There is an environmental, social downside to electric vehicle growth


Re: (‘City of Kamloops wants to lead charge into electric transportation,’ July 2):

The City of Kamloops wants to “lead the way” in adoption of electric vehicles. To put the kindest possible interpretation on this decision, it seems the proponents of electric vehicles are blissfully unaware of the environmental impact of the vehicles they want everyone to drive.

This is probably because they don’t actually see the environmental impact of mining the components that go into an EV battery. And the reason they don’t see it is because it happens far away, to mostly poor people who are unknown to us here in Canada.

Lithium: Our main source of lithium is in South America. There are sources in China and Australia as well, but China is building its own fleet of battery electric vehicles and Australia is working on megabatteries, so our source is unlikely to change.

Lithium extraction requires a lot of water to bring the element up to the surface in a salty brine — about 500,000 gallons of water per ton of lithium. In some regions in Chile, 65 per cent of water is diverted from local food production to be used in lithium production.

After the lithium is extracted, the brine requires 12 to 18 months to evaporate.

Any water returned to the farmers could be tainted with chemicals. For perspective: a Samsung Galaxy A50 phone has about 0.9 grams of lithium in its battery. A Tesla Model S car contains 12 kilograms of lithium.

Cobalt: Half of the world’s cobalt is produced in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to adults, there are between 35,000 and 40,000 children working in mines in southern DRC, many of them extracting cobalt and being paid less than $2 a day.

In addition to child and slave labour, there are problems with toxic waste leakage and radioactivity in cobalt mines.

Nickel and graphite: Graphite mines in China fill the air with sparkly particles, which ultimately contaminate food and water supplies, not to mention the problems associated with breathing the stuff.

Areas surrounding nickel mines report increased rates of deformities and respiratory problems linked to pollution from mining and smelting.

How are the batteries going to be recycled in about 10 years? Lithium batteries can’t just be repurposed. They have to be taken apart, the lithium extracted and then remanufactured.

There are additives in the electrolyte liquid that improve the battery’s function, but the cocktail is a proprietary secret, which makes extracting the minerals difficult and more expensive.

Moreover, the electrolyte mixture has been known to explode at times, which makes handling it potentially very dangerous.

So, let’s say Kamloops council is unaware of the impact of water loss to South American farmers, child labour and toxic waste leakage in the Congo, pollution in China and the impending recycling problem right here in Kamloops.

Now that council members do know, will they change their minds?

Monna Manhas


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