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[personal profile] fridi posting in [community profile] talkpolitics
The world has gone crazy about electric cars these days, it seems. At least the wealthier part of the world. They promise to provide a more technologically advanced future, and they're widely perceived to be much more eco-friendly than any other means of transportation.

Of course, electric cars do have some issues of their own, too. These are several. The biggest one is the long time it takes to re-charge the batteries, given the current level of technologies. Then, the relatively short distance a car could run with one charging. This would eventually be solved by improving the capacity of the batteries. But, because producing the batteries takes energy, it's important to do it in an energy-efficient way, and drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels in the process. Because it's not like producing batteries for electric cars does not leave a significant carbon imprint.

http://www.ivl.se/english/startpage/top-menu/pressroom/press-releases/press-releases---arkiv/2017-06-21-new-report-highlights-climate-footprint-of-electric-car-battery-production.html

This is where the above study comes, which attempts to give a broader and more detailed picture of the whole process. It was done by IVL, a Swedish institute of ecology research, by the behest of the Swedish transportation administration.

The conclusions could be a bit shocking for the uninitiated. The production of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars takes an average of 150-200 kg of CO2 per kWh of battery capacity. For example, Nissan Leaf uses one of the weakest batteries on the market (30 kWh), but most models rely on batteries of a 60-100 kWh capacity. This means that for the production of a Leaf battery, more than 5 tons of CO2 are emitted. Producing a package of 100 kWh batteries emits 15-20 tons of CO2 even before the car has been started for the first time. This calculation is based on a 50-70% share of fossil fuels in the electricity production mix that's been used in the production process.

We could use another, simpler calculation to complement this one, but now with a few conditions. Let's take a 2 litre gasoline engine that emits 150 g/km. If we assume that the average annual mileage is 15,000 km, this means 2,250 kg of CO2 would be emitted. And in order to reach the minimum of 15 tons that are emitted in the production of a single 100 kWh battery, the same car would need to have run 7 years (!) on the roads. The situation looks even more shocking than the one with air transport - but no one is arguing against air transport, are they? (Well, almost no one).

Of course, the technology is developing very fast, and the above numbers only refer to the current moment. Besides, if we are to get a more precise picture, we'd need access to sensitive information from the producers. So the data tends to vary a bit, moreover there are all sorts of battery designs. The thing is, producing these cars is not exactly eco-friendly, and certainly not as energy-efficient as most people would like to believe. And I'm not just talking about fossil fuels and carbon imprint. Making electric car batteries takes lithium, cobalt and nickel. Since extracting these metals is a complex chemical process that consumes huge amounts of energy, we'd need to vastly improve these technologies, before we could even begin to speak of this technology being "green" or anything like that.
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