EV Supply Chains May Be Dirtier Than You Think

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

Most of us know that even the most efficient, long-range EVs generate emissions during the raw materials extraction and production phases, and that’s before we count the logistics required to move everything around the world a few times in the process. The Washington Post recently reported on some of the “dirty parts” of EV manufacturing, and it paints a picture of challenges ahead as more people look to make the shift to electrics.

EV batteries weigh hundreds of pounds and require several minerals and other materials that have to be mined. Many of the extraction locations are in poor parts of the world where the environmental safety and protections aren’t as strong as they are here. Materials like manganese mined in South Africa can have significant negative impacts on local communities and the people doing the mining. Workers in some mines report memory loss and slurred speech related to their work.

These challenges are likely going to get worse as demand for raw materials increases. The reporting estimated that demand for lithium will climb 40 times over by 2040, while other minerals will see astronomical growth of 20 times or more over that period. New battery chemistries and designs may help alleviate some of that pressure, but it will be some time before that happens, and the damage will have been done.

As The Washington Post points out, the U.S. is working to expand its supply chain through legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act and other efforts. That could raise EV prices initially, as much of the existing sourcing and refining infrastructure lies in China, and upcoming changes to the tax credit rules will make vehicles with Chinese-sourced or refined materials ineligible.

[Image: Chevrolet]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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  • Crown Crown on Dec 29, 2023

    Masterbaiter: that comment makes no sense. Oil companies are out to maximize profits. if they can get cheap oil somewhere (gov't lands) then that just means they can make so much more selling it at going rates.

    • See 1 previous
    • EBFlex EBFlex on Dec 31, 2023

      "In my experience, all companies are out to maximize profits."

      It amazes me that people get upset when a company makes money. I would love these people to run companies that are not profitable but force them to stay open, losing money hand over fist and making the "profits are bad" people fund it.

  • Crown Crown on Dec 29, 2023

    Bullnuke: There is cheap crude. Crude that takes almost no effort or cost to pump vs crude that is extremely expensive to extract.

    Back in the '60's and 70's they would have thought you were nuts to try to extract oil from shale or tar sands.

    • Bullnuke Bullnuke on Dec 29, 2023

      Cheap to pump does not mean the market price when sold. "Cheap" crude pricing rises to the prevailing market value perhaps meaning more profit for the driller but not further down the line where it is bought and sold all the way to the refiner.

  • Sobhuza Trooper Subaru, they were almost there with the BRAT. --On a lighter note, where the hell is my Cooper Works Mini truck?
  • Mike Evs do suck, though. I mean, they really do.
  • Steve Biro I don’t care what brand but it needs to be a compact two-door with an ICE, traditional parallel hybrid or both. A manual transmission option would be nice but I don’t expect it - especially with a hybrid. Don’t show me an EV.
  • ToolGuy Lose a couple of cylinders, put the rest in a straight line and add a couple of turbos. Trust me.
  • ToolGuy Got no money for the Tasman, it is going to the Taxman. 🙁