Electric Car, Anyone?

(This post is about all-electric cars, not petrol/electric hybrids)

We keep hearing a lot about electric cars. They don’t pollute, and they are ‘green’, as far as the environment is concerned. Some countries are insisting that all cars have to be electric by a certain date, though that date varies dramatically.

They have drawbacks of course. Limited range, depending on speed, and using lights or accessories. They are not easy to charge either. Very few charging stations have been built so far, and those that exist don’t have that many spaces. That means you might drive to a place, not be able to charge your vehicle, and then be stuck there.

Even charging them at home is a mission. If I had one, I would have to have a cable running from the car to a power source in the garage. Far from ideal, especially in bad weather, if the car doesn’t fit into the garage, or if like most of us, your garage is full of ‘stuff’, and has no room for a car.

And what if I lived in a smart high-rise apartment in London, with no underground car park? Would I drape my charging lead twenty floors down the side of the building, to the car parked outside? Or in a nice Edwardian house on a street. Would people be prepared to step over or under the cable as they walked along? I doubt that. And nobody will vandalise your unattended car as it charges, by pulling out the plug, or breaking the cable.
Believe that, and you’ll believe anything.

And there are some other much more serious considerations.

It is estimated that the batteries in such cars generally only last about seven years, depending on use, and how many times they are re-charged. If we end up with millions of electric cars on the roads, we will have the problem of having to dispose of millions of worn-out batteries too. And replacements can cost anything from Β£400 to Β£1900 each. That replacement cost has to be factored in to a car that has already been hit by age and use depreciation, possibly making the car completely worthless after a relatively short life.

But if it is going to be better for the environment, then it has to be done, right?

Think again.

Cobalt is essential for the manufacture of batteries used in electric cars. A lot of this is obtained from countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo. Child labour is used there in the extraction of Cobalt, as well as poorly-paid and unsafe adult labour. There is no health and safety, and no restrictions on the extraction. Last year, the DRC produced 70% of all the Cobalt used in the West.

COBALT

But even that won’t be enough once electric cars become compulsory. The ‘answer’ is going to be mining the seas for Cobalt. Those seas already choking on plastic pollution, oil pollution, and garbage pollution. Coral degeneration is a hot topic, but once Cobalt mining starts, the current worries will be overwhelmed by a true ecological disaster. The disturbance of the sea bed will cover plants and creatures in sand and silt, also making the water dark, and stifling the breathing of sea life.

Sea Cobalt

Here’s a recent BBC report on that.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49759626

So when Amsterdam bans all but electric vehicles soon, and stands proud as the first city to do so, I hope they are giving some thought to the small boys hammering rocks in Africa for a pittance, or the sea-life destroyed by Cobalt mining in our oceans. And I also hope that they have worked out what to do with all the spent batteries, less than ten years after that.

I know petrol and diesel is no long-term answer. But it seems all-electric has just as many problems too. And I haven’t even discussed the generation of all that electricity using coal-fired, garbage-fired, and nuclear power stations that will still be in use for a generation.

Perhaps the future has to return to pedal power? And a lot more walking.

105 thoughts on “Electric Car, Anyone?

  1. Pete,
    I totally agree with you. And it’s not only the batteries. It’s also how electricity is generated. Neither wind turbines nor solar power stations are emission-free. They need to be built, consuming (precious) resources, and they need to be dismanted when their life-time comes to an end. And what remains is sometimes quite a pollutant, too.
    Germany alone, e.g., will have more than 50.000 tons of GFK-stuff from wind turbines to deal with just in 2021.
    As I said – admittedly quite sarcastically – in other blogs: the only solution to the problem that will work is to do away with mankind altogether. After all, the whole problem started when our ancestors climbed down from their trees millions of years ago.
    Best,
    Pit

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think for now internal combustion engines is the best option because as you said electric cars are impractical. But from my point of view it’s not safe either because when electric cars (lithium ion battery)catches fire it is very to put off. But improvements are been made and it should be implemented in future.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The best solution would be to plough money into our bus and train services. I like to walk where I can (and I walk loads), but that could be because I have to drive 150 miles a day just to commute, so I avoid extra time in the car like the plague haha. I hate the commute, its boring, and unproductive, as well as stressful! I would KILL for a decent train service, I would love to cycle to our station and then sit for 2 hours on a train, catching up on work, doing some reading even, which I never have time for these days. But there are no services near me before 7am (and I have to be at my desk before 7!) and the later services have at least 1 change. The cost is far more than my diesel costs (and that’s not a super economical diesel) and I get to sit in my own space, own temperature, own music in my car…And dont even get me started on what I would do, 70+ miles from home, if the train was delayed or cancelled… BUT all that said, if the government spent the money and provided a reliable 24/7 service i would definitely use it! As I am sure many many others would too – and then boom, people aren’t buying electric cars, they wont need too. And if they needed one for some reason, they could always hire one… (a family holiday for example, I know I wouldnt want to juggle two toddlers and a load of suitcases and bikes on a train haha). Personally though even if that happened, I would still keep one of my ICE vehicles, for fun! When Im driving for pleasure and not commuting, on the right roads, driving is a riot! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know from a previous comment that you enjoy driving. But that 150 miles a day commute is fierce indeed. I drove less than 1,000 miles last year, and that was enough for me. And even if they had a decent train service, getting to and from the station in bad weather (as in almost 9 months of every year) would be a pain for you.
      For some situations, like yours, there is no ‘easy option’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I agree, you just have to make the best you can of some situations. Even an electric car wouldn’t be viable for the commute, even with the longest ranges, we have no charging stations at work, and as soon as I whack the lights and heaters on etc or hit the M6 car park, I would be scuppered. I also think of when we visit family in Scotland – it would involve a break halfway to fully re-charge the car – no one wants to be stuck at services for hours on end with 2 young children surrounded by overpriced food and zero entertainment…
        Getting to the station etc wouldn’t be much fun in bad weather, BUT I do think it would be preferable to sitting on the motorway, if the service was decent enough, I would catch an earlier train and utilise the showering facilities at work and get ready there instead πŸ˜‰ If more people are using trains it would be a nice cycle to the station…and all exercise is welcomed when you’re at a desk all day…
        I envy your annual mileage! πŸ˜€
        Anyway, it will be interesting to see in a few years how our travelling situation in the UK ends up…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so behind in my reading-have not even started the series yet- had never considered or researched electric cars. How disappointing to learn the truth- I am thinking we really have to change our lifestyles- and pretty drastically to make any real difference. That will take a long while . .if ever. Thank you for an informative and interesting post. your fan Michele

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Steampower? Mind you, there would be still problems with it… Considering the first electric cars date from the beginning of the XX century, if there hadn’t been so many interests behind the old industry, I imagine they might have come up with better solutions for the batteries and their components. Although the issue of children mining goes beyond the batteries and it is something seen in many other industries for other reasons as well.
    No good answer…
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/billroberson/2019/09/30/the-clock-is-ticking-on-electric-car-batteriesand-how-long-they-will-last/#2f3ee52421d9
    Now I live in Barcelona I don’t have a car and the public transport is quite good, but it’s not easy depending on where you live.
    Thanks for making us think, as usual, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The comments say it all, Pete it seems nothing comes without a price to something or someone and we have to choose the lesser of the evils…Luckily we have a great transport system here 20 baht(50) pence per trip get on and off where you like. The smaller bus is 10 baht so depending on where I am going as their routes vary from each other slightly but cover the whole town I am sorted…When I haven’t got heavy shopping I walk…For me that suits but it wouldn’t have suited when I worked and had kids to ferry about…
    Good post-Pete I wasn’t aware of the child labour and cobalt which saddens me as much in this world more often than not does lately πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I know I am , Pete and it is such a shame more councils don’t have better public transport as I think if the costb was reasonable and people could get on and off as they wished less people would use their cars πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree, Pete and thank you, I had no idea of cobalt mining, I’ve learned a very disturbing fact today. Why can’t they do something with the by-product of cows, meaning their poo? If they harnessed that power wouldn’t that be greener? Failing that, it’s time we all went back to horsepower and wagons.
    I think the whole world would change back to a time when everyone took things easier and slower. Maybe?

    Liked by 3 people

  8. very interesting post, Pete! my son-in-law just bought a tesla as a second car for short distances. now that i’m transitioning to fully retire, a small town where i can walk to most of my errands is very appealing to me πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I’ve been to Amsterdam once, and it seemed like the primary mode of transportation was a bike. I am not sure how many people would actually buy an electric car, so perhaps the impact there won’t be as significant as if a city like Los Angeles mandated electric cars. Amsterdam might be a good test case to see what sort of issues arise.

    Liked by 2 people

          1. There is something newer, I’m sure I caught something on Radio 4 in the last week
            (I’m rather avoiding Radio because it’s all election and I don’t think we should encourage politicians by wasting time listening to them. We’ve see what they’ve been doing for the last forty years, we know their record, I’m happy to vote on that πŸ™‚ )

            Liked by 1 person

  10. You pointed out aspects of electric vehicles I was not aware of. Sure, I’ve refused to buy an electric because of the limited range, increased cost, and danger of having to sit over all those potentially explosive batteries. But I did not know about the child labor. That photo is heart-rending.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks very much for your comment. What is obvious to me, is that we are not getting the right information. Everyone thinking of getting an electric car needs to think again, and get all the facts.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I love the post and comments Pete, all my rants in one place. We live in a rural location with overhead wiring that is highly temperamental in high winds, when the caravan park across the way reopens in April after a wet winter, and just as I am putting the roast dinner in the over for ten guests. I would not consider an all electric car for that reason.. and a couple of others. The current electric grid in the UK could not take the 6-8pm plugging in of commuters at the same time each day. Especially as it seems that switching on the over for Christmas dinner each year cannot be supported. If I am forced to buy a car I will go for a hybrid that recharges the battery when driven. There are some innovative new ideas on battery life etc but they have a long way to go..

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Sally. This is an emotive issue, but I don’t think consumers are getting the real facts, or the truth. Hybrids are a good option, but still cause the problem of battery replacement. Once there are millions on our roads, I don’t think they have any plans what to do with all the spent batteries.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Electric cars make sense only in places that don’t use fossil fuels to generate electricity. Although hydroelectricity isn’t perfect either (dams); neither is nuclear power (waste, meltdowns). As others have said, the real problem is too many humans with their desires for stuff whipped up by advertising and the (wrong) idea that endless growth is necessary.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Audrey. Where I live, wind-generated electricity is actually the largest supplier to the region, using huge wind-farms out at sea. But if everyone suddenly bought an electric car, it wouldn’t be enough to meet the demand.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I live in the USA – current leader in ‘consumerism that leads the world’s woes” and other such things – I drive a ’98 Ford, f250 truck, that gets, on it’s best outings – about 18 mph – less if I just fire up for short runs – like 12 mph – thus, I’m an “American” that is contributing to HUGE pollution and global warming problems – or so it is said –

    the past two years, I”ve rarely filled up or topped off the 35 gallon gas tank this salvaged (bought at auction, by mechanic I purchased from, after ‘totaled’ by insurance company) more than twice a month – In all, I use a tank of gas every 2-3 months – IF I travel – IF I go to work for someone else who demands I be somewhere far away, for so many hours a day –

    and so, since I get ‘shoved in my face’ every day about how I’m a “part of the problem” because I’m an omnivore, instead of vegan and how I drive a big arse truck, with gas guzzling tendencies – I’d just like to wade in – in the 8 years since I’ve owned it – I’ve bought 1 battery and replaced the tires once – (the old tires are part of my tire fence that is heat sink for the south side of my planned cottage garden area…) Yup – I hauled the old tires home – – didn’t the replaced battery cuz wasn’t sure what I could safely do with it – –

    Now, so many of my friends, if you can call folks who hate so much of what you own, do, everyday, as friends, sport around in their hybrids and electric cars – – they travel to Denver (over 80 miles away) and Colorado Springs ( 48 miles away) and other such places, multiple times a week – – mileage, wear, tear, gas, battery life, etc.?

    I’ve got them all beat – but such things don’t occur to them – – so….just wading in – I figure the USPS, UPS or FedEx truck coming this way sooner or later, anyhoo – and so – why not just do without until they can deliver what I need – ?

    See? No extra batteries or gas wasted – but that’s not ‘kosher’ or ‘green’ or true to ‘shop local’ – so, why talk about it in face of overwhelming ad campaigns that list me and folks like me as the ‘problem’ – in short – you don’t sell cars to people who are fine staying home and doing without – – LOL

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think India and China are probably bigger polluters than the US, given their much higher populations. But your story sounds a lot like my own.
      I drive a diesel automatic-gearbox car that is quite old (almost 13 years old) , and I only do around 20 miles a week on average. Yet I have to pay higher road tax than someone driving 600 miles a week because my car has a poor ’emissions rating’.
      But no small children had to mine Cobalt so they could make my car, and I haven’t replaced the battery in years.
      Thanks, Anonymous.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This is all very interesting Pete, not to mention disturbing. Looks like my idea of moving into a town so I can walk to all the amenities I will need is the way to go. You could of course have your groceries delivered which would reduce one car on the road. Here even walking is dangerous as there are no pavements otherwise we would walk more.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We have no roadside pavements until over halfway into Dereham. I walk through the track by the pig farm to avoid the fast road, but that is awfully muddy in bad weather. (So most of the time)
      I might end up getting home-delivered groceries, but at the moment, it is the only time I get out of Beetley most weeks, so a small ‘diversion’ for me. πŸ™‚
      The plan to move into a place where you can walk, or has a good bus service, is a good one. But I don’t think I could stand the stress of moving again.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Like

    1. They have different ranges, Arlene. Some can do 200 miles before needing charging, but most much less. The issue is that they are not ‘Green’, because they use electricity that is generated by conventional means, and their batteries require mining for minerals, and later disposal too. Electric bicycles would be a better alternative of course, but they would have to be used in all weathers without protection.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Individual car ownership is a dead concept. Most vehicles sit idly once they have conveyed the passenger to the destination. Including mine. We need to rethink the whole idea. Less vehicles but used more often by many people.
    For example you subscribe to a manufacturer for x amount per month, that entitles you to request a vehicle via an app (automated / driverless) etc. It collects you and conveys you to your destination. Once done off it goes to get another punter.
    Of course I have not spoken about cars and the energy source they use, the way I see it. There is no such thing a non polluting vehicle. Take it right from the beginning, design (uses electricity) extraction of raw materials, conveyance of those to a processing plant and on and on it goes. Vehicles pollute, end of. Business make money marketing and selling such products, people gain employment. I think in the short term, Singapore has the right idea. But then all the people who live in a rural environment will shout it’s essential, there is no public transportation where I live.
    This leads onto a question about public infrastructure / basically the lack of !
    Personal vehicle transportation is a blessing and a curse.
    The only real answer is high quality, safe, reliable 24/7 public transportation system. But it’s not going to happen. We have to wait until we’re all choking to death on the acrid air before anything is done.
    In the mean time I’ll have Β£50’ quids worth of four star please.
    ☠️

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I heard a while ago that Singapore banned electric cars but it seems Dyson has gone there to build an electric car business so I guess that wasn’t true – yet only about 100 electric cars are privately owned. I agree with Jacquie and the horse and wagon – and a friend of mine has fixed a trailer on his bicycle so he can carry all sorts.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Mary.
      Bikes with trailers might be a perfect solution in city centres like Amsterdam. Norfolk is reasonably flat, but I don’t know if I still have the puff to pedal back from Dereham with all the shopping. If we had a better bus service in Beetley, I would happily use that all the time.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. There is already an alternative to the lithium ion called the lithium iron phosphate without cobalt , but of course there are always snags. The truth of the matter is we have too many people on the planet and we all insist on progress , more and more. Science is like a gentle ogre , powerful full of promises but creating problems .
    I’m 1972 a famous book called ‘Limits to Growth ‘ was published , it predicted 2008 for peak industrial output and 2030 population peak then rapid decline of growth was not limited. Millions of copies sold yet here we are but actions speak louder than words.
    Incidentally mobile phones contain rare earth metals which are in very short supply so bang on to your mobile they are being thrown away by the million.
    Meanwhile billions are being spent on going to Mars and a mere pittance on flood defences.
    In the animal kingdom numbers are limited by circumstances , lack of prey , environmental change we thought we were above the animals but it looks as if circumstances are going to prove we are not.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I knew about the mobile phones, FM. That’s one reason why I have had the same one for six years, with no intention of changing it. I also recall many doom-laden prophesies during the 1970s. The one yet to be seriously addressed is the impending shortage of drinking water.
      Hard to believe, given the rain we have here, but the next major conflicts may well be about ownership of fresh water.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  18. The hephalump in the room of course, the one that we’re not allowed to mention upon pain of much pain, is that petrol and diesel cars and all that went with them in that ilk would still be fine and dandy and sustainable (with work, and modifications) – if the population of the planet had not (in even just my lifetime, and including my presence) gone from 3,000,000,000 to damned near 8,000,000,000 – and all of those new folk wanting three cars each and one for spare! As a species we have bred ourselves far beyond being able to afford toys of any sort, and a lot of the world – England in especially – is now elbow to elbow with three weeks’ notice required if space is required in which to cough.

    As microbes infesting the toilet bowl we have out-grown our own management, and the bottle of Existential Domestos hovers overhead…

    πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for your considered comment, Ian.
      I agree that all other life on Earth might have stood a chance, if it hadn’t been for Human evolution.
      Maybe we have run our course? Time to hand back to nature.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  19. I think this is one of those cases where the theory is fine, but the application leaves a lot to be desired (communism, anyone?). It’s very commendable to want to reduce emissions from internal combustion engines, but imposing a regime of all-electric cars without working out all of the infrastructure details such as you mention is not the answer, and ‘virtue-signalling’ seems to be the order of the day for governments right now; people have always been down on Jeremy Clarkson for being anti-electric cars, but his issue was with the hypocrisy over the batteries, and he’s quite right, whatever you might think about him personally. Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hybrid cars charge the batteries using a small engine, But that requires petrol of course. There is talk of electric cars that self-charge using some kind of mechanical device, but I don’t know a great deal about those yet. If they work, that would be better, but still leaves the problem of what to do with the old batteries.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I think you have the answer in your final statement. I think too many people have cars simply for the sake of having one and more often than not they are inappropriate for what they use them for. You would go a long way in helping the environment by getting your kids to walk to school or take a bus, it used to work well, now it seems you have to have a gas guzzling SUV to deliver your little precious to the gate πŸ™‚
    I could go on, and on and on, about this one, but I’m doing my bit and I wouldn’t dare to preach. After all I appreciate that a 15 tear old Fiat Panda that runs on LPG isn’t for everyone, but I’ll bet its a damn site more environmentally friendly than any electric car πŸ™‚

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Cheers, Eddy. I walk everywhere that I can. I even walk almost 4 miles each way to Dereham if I don’t have to carry anything home afterwards. But I have yet to work out how to get 4-5 heavy bags of shopping back from the supermarket, in a rural location barely served by any buses.
      Perhaps I need a bicycle with a trailer? It might come to that one day.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. The batteries are the exact reason I have steered away from electric cars. More of the demand for what we want without regard for the damage to people or the environment. Mining in general is one of the worst polluters of our planet.

    Liked by 6 people

        1. Perhaps a mobility scooter could help you, Maranda? You can even get ones with full covers for bad weather. I think they are a real option, as they have a range from 15-30 miles, depending on the one you buy. I wouldn’t hesitate to get one if I was in that position. Cheaper than a car, and offering the freedom to get around to places locally.
          Something like this would be ideal, and they are often available second-hand. I actually have this page bookmarked. πŸ™‚
          https://www.careco.co.uk/item-s-ms03079/abilize-kondor-cabin-scooter/
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

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