The climate lobby must be furious—again. Another mainstream publication, the New York Times, joins the Guardian in speaking truth to power regarding the mirage of electric vehicles as a climate strategy.
Peter Coy’s “A Climate Hawk’s Issues with Electric Vehicles,” (New York Times: July 14, 2023) considers the opportunity cost to EVs of hybrid gas/electric cars. But the real message is that EVs have a huge carbon debt that adds to, not subtracts from, emissions that are already too cumulative to effectively mitigate.
First came a negative report from the UK media bastion for climate alarmism/forced energy transformation. The Guardian (May 6, 2023) explained the “bad conscience” of owning and driving an EV. “Your lovely new vehicle comes with a kind of embedded carbon debt,” author John Naughton wrote:
The factory that made it – the industrial plant that shaped and stamped and assembled all that steel and glass and plastic and rubber into a vehicle – emitted a lot of CO2 in the process. So you will have to drive a long way before the savings of CO2 that you would have emitted in driving the same distance in a fuel-burning car exceed the carbon emitted in its manufacture.
Then the burley, weighty battery comes in for eco-censure.
The composition of a typical battery (by weight) looks like this: lithium 3.2%, cobalt 4.3%, manganese 5.5%; nickel 15.7%; aluminum 18.9%; other materials 52.5%. Many of these materials have been mined, shipped around the world and put through complex chemical processing before being assembled into a battery. These processes all have carbon footprints, and quantifying them isn’t easy, but they’re certainly substantial.
Mining these minerals has “a human toll,” the “dark underbelly” of EVs.
New York Times Expose
Peter Coy is advertised by the New York Times as “veteran business and economics columnist” who “unpacks the biggest headlines.” His EV stocktaking reiterated a number of aforementioned problems, beginning with embedded CO2, as estimated by experts:
The production of electric vehicles produces more greenhouse gases than the production of cars with combustion engines. So E.V.s have to travel between 28,000 and 68,000 miles before they have an emissions advantage over similarly sized and equipped ICE-mobiles…. That may take 10 years or more if the E.V. isn’t driven much.
Coy explores the open secret of automakers: concern about the politically correct versus the economically correct. He then gets to the eco-sins:
Electric vehicles consume huge quantities of lithium and other materials because they have huge batteries. And they have huge batteries because customers suffer from “range anxiety” and won’t buy an E.V. unless it can go for hundreds of miles without charging — even though the vast majority of trips are short.
Battery bulge means higher prices, reducing sales. “Some people will keep driving old ICE-mobiles (cars with internal combustion engines) because they can’t afford an E.V. And those ICE-mobiles will continue to be major emitters of greenhouse gases.”
Then comes the mined minerals cobalt, graphite, lithium and manganese. Not only environmental concerns but social justice issues come into play. It is not easy being green.
Economic and ecological drawbacks make EVs a hard sell. Coy can only meekly conclude that “the destination of all-electric for all will take more minerals, better battery chemistry and more and better chargers, among other things, … [making] hybrids seem like a valuable part of the vehicle mix.”
So Thomas Edison was right to tell Henry Ford in 1896 to stick to the internal combustion engine, one reason being “the storage battery is too heavy.” But consumers spoke louder more than a century ago, putting EVs out of action along with a lot of horses. That historical story has lessons for today.