electric vehicles impact
14 November 2019
Many people believe that electric transportation is the way of the future, but does this advancement in technology knocking on our doors come with other unforeseen drawbacks? It is easy to fall into the hype of new technology and how it will shape the way of the future and ultimately be a benefit to us. However, Electric vehicles come with a variety of economical and environmental dangers that we need to be considering more seriously. What are the potential dangers of making the complete switch from vehicles powered by petroleum to vehicles powered by electricity? Two aspects that should be considered are the environmental and the economical repercussions of such a change, and this essay will discuss both.
Environmental factors should be the number one concern here. After all, one of the primary reasons people are so attracted to electric cars is because they have the belief that they are less detrimental to the planet. The truth is, during their life cycle, battery powered cars have the potential to cause more harm to nature than a petroleum powered car ever could. In most cases, Lithium Ion batteris are the go-to cell for electric modes of transportation. As far as battery technology is concerned, Lithium Ion is far ahead of all the other types, but there is a catch. Lithium Ion batteries are toxic, and could directly and indirectly cause extreme short and long term damage to the environment. Consider the process of creating a Lithium Ion battery pack, there is an extraction, refinement, and production. Although the end result may be a "cleaner burning" solution, the process to actually get there is quite harmful. Lithium requires chemicals to harvest, and these chemicals are dangerous. They can effect the landscape and ecosystem around where they are mined, and easily kill the animals in the surrounding area. "Like any mining process, it is invasive, it scars the landscape, it destroys the water table and it pollutes the earth and the local wells," said Guillermo Gonzalez, a lithium battery expert from the University of Chile, in a 2009 interview. "This isn't a green solution - it's not a solution at all." (Wired 2018). Unfortunately, there is also no effective process of recycling old cells. Although it can be done, it cannot be done to where it would outweigh the drawback of the initial creation. When a petroleum vehicle breaks down, it can be repaired at a relatively low cost with almost non existent effect on the environment. But when an electric car breaks, its expensive to fix and can leave a footprint almost as big as when the vehicle was initially produced.
The disposal process is also something that needs to be considered. There is not yet a safe and practical method of which to dispose of Lithium Ion battery packs, they become more toxic and unpredictable as they age and can cause dramatic environmental damage when thrown away. There is not yet a strategy to effectively recycle used batteries, and processes are still being researched and developed. "The lack of recycling capacity is "a tragedy", says Amrit Chandan, a chemical engineer leading business development at Aceleron, a hi-tech British startup looking to transform end of life batteries. "It takes so much energy to extract these materials from the ground. If we don't re-use them we could be making our environmental problems worse," (The Guardian 2017). It may not have a serious effect five or ten years from now, but when the time comes to face the reality of landfills cluttered with these batteries, it will be a scramble to find a solution. One of the scariest reactions a Lithium Ion battery can have is ignition when exposed to oxygen. In naked form, Lithium Ion packs will spontaneously combust when exposed to open air, and this is why they are always encased in multiple plastic layers. "Lithium-ion battery fires generate intense heat and considerable amounts of gas and smoke. Although the emission of toxic gases can be a larger threat than the heat, the knowledge of such emissions is limited." (Nature News 2017). The casings used to contain this event from occurring are not resistant to outside conditions and can easily degrade in a landfill. Imagine thousands of these combustion events occurring from batteries in uncontrolled landfill environments.
Probably the most overlooked aspect of electric vehicles taking over is the economic effect. The auto industry is a multi trillion dollar institution, exceeding the value of some governments due to its size. These brand name companies employ well over a million people globally, and this industry has been largely unfazed for the last five decades. If people decide to make the complete switch to electric vehicles, who knows how this will affect big manufacturers. Of course, we could assume that they will keep with the times, but some will inevitably fail. This could leave tens if not hundreds of thousands unemployed. Not only could it influence manufacturers of automobiles, it could also have an effect on the aftermarket industry. The aftermarket parts industry makes up hundreds of billions of dollars in the global economy and employ almost as many people as the major manufactures. Changing this landscape could again leave many people unemployed, and many companies out of business. Many peoples livelihoods depend on the car business as it is, and the switch to electric vehicles could change hundreds of thousands of lives, and leave significant residual effect on the global economy.
These "if" aspects need to be seriously considered before making such a dramatic change. The potential consequences of switching to electric cars could very well leave more damage then petroleum vehicles ever did or could. Before taking such a leap, processes and guarantees should be in place both for environmental and economical responsibility. Like any new advancement in technology, this does not come with its potential and inevitable drawbacks. It is important that solutions are in place beforehand, rather than after the fact in order to guarantee and secure a future that is truly bright.Sources
Gardiner, Joey. "The Rise of Electric Cars Could Leave Us with a Big Battery Waste Problem." The Guardian, Guardian News and Media.
Katwala, Amit. "The Spiralling Environmental Cost of Our Lithium Battery Addiction." WIRED
Larsson, Fredrik, et al. "Toxic Fluoride Gas Emissions from Lithium-Ion Battery Fires." Nature News, Nature Publishing Group
Areas in which I could Improve
1)I would like to use at least two more academic sources in this essay. I feel than when I know a topic well, I tent to deviate away from using sources and use more of my own knowledge. I feel it is important to implement more trusted articles in order to give my essay more gravity.
2)Because I know this topic very well at heart, I think at times I need to explain the science behind these claims more clearly. I will try to articulate more on the final draft in order to allow the user to understand these claims better.
3)Attention grabbing is something I think is very important when writing informative essays. I would like to implement more attention grabbing aspects in order to grab and retain the attention of the reader so they think the topic is as important as I do.