Popping the Electric Car Bubble

Wolfe Rygaard

The world is more connected than ever before and as such, people are traveling further and more frequently. Whether it’s a daily commute or a cross-country road trip, the car serves as the main method of transportation for the vast majority. However, due to the excessive emissions cars spew into the environment, experts of all kinds have long been trying to find a way to make the cars we love eco-friendly. The solution seemed to be the electric car. Not only did they solve the emissions issue, but the stylish and trendy look would give car companies a reason to make the switch. Unfortunately, the hype surrounding electric cars is just that, hype. The fact of the matter is that electric cars reduce, not remove, emissions and require far too many resources.

There is a common misconception that zero-emission vehicles don’t add a single molecule of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This is because these vehicles don’t have exhaust pipes that spew greenhouse gases. However, the process of producing the required electricity does add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, as of 2021, only 20% of the country’s electricity is produced by renewable energy sources. That number pales in comparison to the 64% produced by fossil fuels, which lead to additional carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. Furthermore, when factoring other outside sources, such as battery production and vehicle lifetime, the International Council on Clean Transport found the electric vehicles in the United States to be 60–68% “cleaner” than their combustion engine counterparts. While this reduction is nothing to scoff at, the amount of emissions is still far from zero.

International Council on Clean Transport

Electric cars are powered by batteries which require a number of minerals, one being lithium. Lithium is often found in liquid form as many, many years ago, the lithium reacted with water before leaching down through the soil. This solution is known as lithium brine. Essentially, the process of lithium extraction boils down to pumping the lithium brine to the surface and evaporating the water, leaving behind the lithium. A study conducted in Chile, a country rich in lithium, found that the extraction of groundwater from lithium mining could cause an ecosystem to crumble. The pattern starts with a reduction of water in lakes. With less water, comes less primary productivity, or energy produced by autotrophs. In the case of Chile, this means fewer algae. Reducing the number of algae in turn causing the populations of animals that rely on algae as a food source to drop as well. The most striking example was the 12% reduction in the flamingo population over an 11-year span. With the demand for lithium increasing along with the demand for electric vehicles, these numbers will only continue to grow.

University of South Carolina

Especially, in capitalist countries, the power of the dollar is greatly overestimated. Mother Nature cannot be swayed by any amount of money. To fix the problem we caused, we must take it upon ourselves to reduce emissions be it through biking to work or purchasing fewer useless things. Electric cars may very well be in our future, but for now, let’s pump the brakes.





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I am an environmental scientist who currently resides in Puerto Rico. I’m also passionate about basketball and Tottenham Hotspur.

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