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The silent expense behind the revolution of the electric vehicle world

Ex-Mercedes-Benz chief Dieter Zetsche informed CAR Magazine before his retirement in the year 2019 that the electric cars can be dirtier unlike fossil fuel equivalents if charging point feeds off the electricity of the EV is generated in China that depends on power stations which are fired using coal for more than 50% of its electricity.

It is unlikely that Zetsche does have an anti-electric vehicle agenda; even if it was late in the game, Mercedes invested a lot in Electric cars, releasing the all-electric EQC platform in 2019, like other automotive manufacturers. Zetsche immediately explained that, if powered in Germany, an EV is about 40% greener compared to a fossil-fuel counterpart. Electric Vehicles are really cleaner in particular: the International Council on Clean Transportation reports that Europe’s average EV emits 50% less greenhouse gas emissions in the life cycle than a conventional vehicle.

But Zetsche’s statement, and those like it, is growing more insightful as the United Kingdom and other countries march towards a future that is all-electric – and desire for more than just the energy that recharges those increases. Suppose the large black cloud which is hanging over zero-emission USP of Electric cars has historically been issues about electricity generation. In that case, the focus is now widening to include supply chain and components on which the Electric Vehicle batteries and engines depend. The supply of rare earths and precious metals, mining disruption to the environment, supply chain working practices as well as geo-political threats have all found their way up the Electric Vehicle agenda.

Usually, new electric and hybrid-electric cars store power in lithium-ion batteries which are sandwiched under the vehicle, which are more like a scaled-up tablet or laptop batteries in simplified words. The demand for lithium and cobalt is set to rise, and there are doubts if the supply will match the demand. Obviously, mining scars the ground and is relatively expensive. It is easier to remove from salt flats and requires draining water through the earth to get to the surface mineral-rich brine before evaporating in ponds, just like salt. A significant volume of water is needed for the process, and it can cause toxic leaks.

The primary issue with cobalt is that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an economically insecure Central African nation where 80% of the population does not access electricity, about 50% of reserves are stored. But it can be challenging to ensure that the cobalt used is obtained ethically, responsibly and with proper environmental care with a convoluted distribution chain and certain automotive makers sourcing fully assembled electric motors from foreign suppliers.

Often under investigation are rare earths that are used in electric motors. Rare earths are hard to obtain and isolate, expensive and sometimes, if not always, located in locations with high geo-political threats. Rare earth mining can be toxic, as well.

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