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Your new Government-subsidised electric vehicle may not have the life you think it has, and it may cause more global environmental damage than you realise. Take care before you buy the hype

Personal Finance / analysis
Your new Government-subsidised electric vehicle may not have the life you think it has, and it may cause more global environmental damage than you realise. Take care before you buy the hype
lithium salts in Bolivia
Piles of salt ready for collection at the Uyuni Salt Flat in Bolivia. The crust sits a few centimeters above a pool of lithium-rich brine. Source: Dan Lundberg/Flickr

There is a new 'gold rush' underway in the mining world, one powered by - you.

It is to find and extract lithium carbonate, so lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries can power our new 'green revolution'.

And as you probably know, the New Zealand Government is keen for you to 'electrify', especially your transportation. They are handing out subsidies of more than $8000 per car to encourage you to choose a battery-powered EV. That battery will almost certainly be a lithium-ion battery.

There has been much progress in the manufacture of these electricity storage devices. Famously, Tesla has build a set of giga-factories (in some sort of partnership with Panasonic until now) in the US (4), China and the EU, churning out Li-ion battery-powered cars. New ones are coming for Japan, South Korea and India.

Other major car makers are doing the same. Li-ion batteries are the new standard for automotive power.

And the marketing is simple, especially in New Zealand - green energy stored to replace 'dirty' internal combustion engines (ICE) powered by petrol (or sometimes natural gas).

The storage of electricity in rechargeable batteries is also claimed to have other benefits such as emergency power in a crisis. The benefits can be extended to households too with solar photovoltaics and 'wall' storage.

But all this depends on Li-ion batteries, and that depends on mining lithium carbonate.

Most lithium carbonate is currently mined in Australia (hard rock mining), Chile or Argentina (underground brine reservoirs). 

Hard rock mining – where the mineral is extracted from open pit mines and then roasted using fossil fuels – leaves scars in the landscape, requires a large amount of water and releases 15 tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of lithium carbonate.

Underground brine mining relies on even more water to extract the lithium carbonate – and it takes place in typically very water-scarce parts of the world, leading to indigenous communities questioning their sustainability. The mined clay is mixed with water and evaporated in vast desert ponds to concentrate the lithium carbonate. The water is extracted from scarce below-surface water tables, and will only happen until they run dry.

After the lithium carbonate is mined, it is almost all shipped to China (or a few other Asian countries) where it is converted into the material needed for Li-ion batteries. China's stranglehold on this trade has obvious strategic and geo-political implications that only China is happy about.

Lithium carbonate is currently very scarce and in hot demand. The price has risen very fast since COP26 and now sits at NZ$61,600/tonne. It was just NZ$19,300 at the end of July 2021, to a sudden +220% leap in five months. It is likely to go much higher. That NZ Government subsidy may have to be increased as EVs will cost very much more in 2022. (The price of petrol, mainly tax, rose +10% in the same time. But the cost of retail electricity hardly changed.)

Li-ion batteries are more than lithium however. According to the Wikipedia entry, chemistry, performance, cost and safety characteristics vary across types of lithium-ion batteries. Handheld electronics mostly use lithium polymer batteries (with a polymer gel as electrolyte), a lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2) cathode material, and a graphite anode, which together offer a high energy density. Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4), lithium manganese oxide (LiMn2O4 spinel, or Li2MnO3-based lithium rich layered materials, LMR-NMC), and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (LiNiMnCoO2 or NMC) may offer longer lives and may have better rate capability. Such batteries are widely used for electric tools, medical equipment, and other roles. NMC and its derivatives are widely used in electric vehicles.

This consumer-driven and Government-induced demand is behind these massive raw material price increases, and fuel the search imperatives for more supply. The mining rush is overwhelming the environmental concerns.

Producing battery-grade lithium carbonate will cause groundwater contamination with metals including antimony and arsenic, according to US environmental impact documents.

Hardrock mining of clay dug out from mountainsides comes with tonnes of sulfuric acid used to treat it at source. In some cases it may contain modestly radioactive uranium, permit documents have disclosed.

It doesn't help that much of this activity is to go on on marginal desert land where water resources are scarce and indigenous communities live - in the US, Australia and South America. There are fierce battles ahead that will undoubtedly drive up the cost as the global demand skyrockets.

There is a partial solution - extracting lithium from geothermal waters has a tiny environmental footprint in comparison, including very low carbon emissions. So far there is no suggestion New Zealand has ambitions in this area, but that will undoubtedly come - along with claims of ownership under Treaty obligations. But to participate in this new 'gold rush' it will need to be done at scale.

Rechargeable Li-ion batteries currently last 5 to 8 years, about enough to do 100,000 kms. New advances will undoubtedly make them last longer, but how much is currently a faith-based guess.

Other research suggests that batteries could be made from much cheaper existing materials and there is much work going on, much of it well funded. But it is all still pie-in-the-sky stuff at present. Lithium and hydrogen are practical now.

(And the other primary minerals used for EVs are nickel, graphite and cobalt (see components above) - all now sharply rising in cost and the mining of each have their own set of major environmental issues. These are many including greenhouse gas emissions, habitat destruction, and contamination of air, water, and soil. This leads to high emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and the use of large amounts of energy derived predominantly from fossil fuels. But that is another story.)

There is an alternative solution - not mining lithium carbonate (or cobalt or nickel) at all, but power ICE or electric motors with hydrogen which can genuinely be green hydrogen. We know these as 'fuel cells'. According to the US Department of Energy, fuel cells are generally between 40% and 60% energy efficient. Decades ago, Japan chose this as their ticket to a carbon-neutral future and they have a serious lead in technology for hydrogen power. The only exhaust of hydrogen-powered engines is water vapour and oxygen.

Perhaps ICEs are not dead yet - they may have a future for heavy transport especially. Fuel cells for cars. But that will only happen if consumers demand them (and governments stop favouring Li-ion batteries and the retail infrastructure needed to make them user-friendly). Unaccounted for in current public policy decision-making is the future discarding of millions of used batteries - they only have a limited life. And that is a problem no-one is factoring in at present. Hydrogen doesn't have that problem at all - and it uses a variation of the current distribution infrastructure.

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137 Comments

Once a battery is done, just send it straight to landfill. 

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Yeah we really shouldnt be chucking lithium & cobalt containing batteries in landfills

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Waste battery problem is one thing and also takes wayyyyy too long to be fully charged. Might consider if it take less than 5 mins. gosh even that is a long time.
It’s frustrating enough when my phone is running on low battery when I’m out and about imagine the car…

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I’ll take any spare batteries off your hands for free. I’ll even come and collect it. They are worth money in static applications and are 99% recyclable

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This is the first I have heard of Li batteries being recyclable, lead acid are recyclable but also very heavy.

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Theres a recurring theme developing ......too much demand on limited resources of any and all types.

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Yep, the real answer to our polluting transport systems is to drive less. Journeys under 3km, walk, under ~25km, bike (unless not physically able) and buses and trains for longer. It's going to happen eventually anyway...

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Some people in my street always drive when they go somewhere. I have never seen these people walk up the road. Ever.

There are all sort of paradoxs by the way:

a) An expensive Tesla, because this car represents a huge amount of sunk money, the owners will seldom walk/ run/ ride anywhere. Same applies to electric bikes or scooters:  some owners will never walk anywhere ever again. To their own detriment.

b) Even though the council has declared a climate emergency, they are allowing big lovely exotic trees on council land to be cut down.

c) Infill housing intensification due to overpopulation and housing speculation in Ak: the property next door used to have one house and large grassy property with about 100 trees of various sizes. Now there are maybe 20 tiny boxus shrubs there. No room for any garden.

As a proportion the amount of concrete to land area has shot up.

d) Untreated timber now that didn't end well.

e) Heat pumps: Overall power bills higher than when radiant heaters were used.

The list goes on.

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I wonder if we should set a maximum allowance (say 10% of total footprint?) for parking areas for supermarkets, hospitals etc to make it a PITA to take a car unless you really have to. Our local hospitals footprint is ~50% car parking spaces and they really need to expand building space

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Better to set a 'carbon allowance' per citizen...one that is tradable and one with a sinking lid.

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With an ageing and more disabled population how much do you value food and pharmacy access. Because expecting those with severe medical conditions to go without is the system we have currently and many cannot even make it to retirement age and food & medical access support has already been cut. You have the luxury currently of being able. Stop stripping the only form of access of the disabled for your failings, as in all parks are those for the disabled the only problem being there is not enough of them even now for the population needs and many have literally been denied access to work, housing and education facilities. Currently the last vestiges of access around food and medical services is a new low.

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This is called Jevons Paradox, the more efficiently we use an energy source, the more of it we use.  As energy becomes cheaper we actually use more not less of it.

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Demand is not driven by "you" - it is driven by starry eyed government mandates.

Even if cheaper alternatives are found - how is the EV owner going to pay for the recycling?

'Both processes produce extensive waste and emit greenhouse gases, studies have found. And the business model can be shaky: Most operations depend on selling recovered cobalt to stay in business, but battery makers are trying to shift away from that relatively expensive metal. If that happens, recyclers could be left trying to sell piles of “dirt,” says materials scientist Rebecca Ciez of Purdue University.

...Recycling researchers, meanwhile, say effective battery recycling will require more than just technological advances. The high cost of transporting combustible items long distances or across borders can discourage recycling. As a result, placing recycling centers in the right places could have a “massive impact,” Harper says. “But there’s going to be a real challenge in systems integration and bringing all these different bits of research together.”

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/05/millions-electric-cars-are-comi…

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It is important to recognise that hydrogen is a method of both storing and transporting energy, but it is not a method of generating energy.  However, it dos fit nicely into energy systems that get their primary energy from solar and wind, with hydrogen storage systems solving the primary generation issue associated with fluctuating weather.   

As such, hydrogen is an alternative to batteries. But it is only one component of an overall energy system that, one way or another (solar or wind), must include capture of energy from the sun, or alternatively is based on yet to be commercially-harnessed nuclear technologies involving thorium.

KeithW

 

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hydrogen is an alternative to batteries

It's a very inefficient alternative to batteries.

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I agree that there are energy efficiency issues to be addressed with hydrogen. 
With current technology, the niche for hydrogen appears to be more for buses, trucks and planes than it does for cars. 
Also possibly for large-scale fixed-location uses.
KeithW 

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Did you read this?

Wouldn't be so keen on hydrogen if you had.

https://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/hydrogen-not-energy-option-manapouri

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In relation to the specifics of Manapouri, I too am very sceptical as to whether embedding that energy within hydrogen is the best way forward here in NZ.  But I don't regard Philip Temple's article as being a balanced consideration in regard to the general future of hydrogen technology systems. 
KeithW

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Hydrogen has its place to soak up excess renewable production to allow it to be re-used later. It’s only viable when extremely cheap energy is available to make it.
 

However, in NZ, pumped hydro is better suited to this and more efficient.

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Onslow will be the highest priced electricity per kWhr by a large margin. (If it is bid into the market at its true market value). For a start: it needs to pay for the electricity to pump most of the water up hill. (Doesn't rain much there).... which no other hydros need to do.

Even when other hydros as spilling, the full generation from these stations would otherwise keep the market at a low marginal value. However with a good chunk of this going towards pumping water up hill, there will not be much of a surplus at these times. So the very low prices which occur at off peak times will be higher if/when Onslow comes along.

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Agree , right idea , wrong location.

I would prefer smaller schemes closer to the point of demand. Either side of the cook strait cable, bunnythorpe, Tongarioro, south auckland etc. and with a natural inflow of some volume , which is not currently enough for hydro. 

 

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Agree also.  We have plenty of hydrogen storage in this country.  If every house roof was covered in Solar panels our countries energy needs would be sorted

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One of the current problems with hydrogen, that any plant to produce "green" hydrogen is so expensive that it is uneconomic to sit there idle to handle fluctuating generation. Due to the sunk cost you want it to be running at capacity most of the time. This may change in the future of course.

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This video by Prof Krumdieck is very illuminating on the problems with Hydrogen https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=M9AwGLnDI0Q&feature=youtu.be

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A great loss to this country.....frustration with inaction i suspect

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Can't find the data, but believe more lithium is still used in the production of phones, laptops,tools,toys, appliances, than cars.most going to landfill when disposed of.perhaps the higher price will encourage more recycling, or even landfill mining.  Incidentally, landfills have been calculated to have more gold per tonne, than the richest gold mines .

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Agreed, and no one gave a shit about lithium when we were burning through more than one iphone a year at the peak of the mobile tech revolution. I can't remember one article about e-waste that wasn't actually focused on things like gold that was inside every phone going to landfill. Now that a historically profitable oligopolistic commodity is under threat, it's suddenly important? Not buying it.

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It's pretty much impossible to mine a landfill, instead of ending up with toxic waste, you start with with toxic waste, what you end up with is a big mess.

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Indeed. Tech planned obsolescence is a severe problem with the big name brands the worst offenders (often with software coded to cut hardware function and deny device use at set dates). The right to repair movement has long pushed for more resource conservation, better future lifecycle planning and to allow people to repair and source/recycle parts for devices.

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What a negative article.

Dairy farming is soooo much better.

And why no spell check on this site, so last century.

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After the Chatham Rock Phosphate mining application debacle I think most lost interest in mining within New Zealand.

Obviously to electrify personal transport there will need to be major investment in the supporting infrastructure which will include lithium battery recycling. Incentives to purchase vehicles is just a tiny part of electrification.

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Lithium batteries aren’t recycled. I’m looking into off grid batteries and lithium is the only battery option that isn’t recycled. 

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At least the phosphate is still there. Might come in useful for preventing starvation in NZ for a while, once Western Sahara resources are exhausted.

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Very informative article.

Notwithstanding some very significant environmental issues, my understanding is that across the life of a car an EV will be a lot better than ICE in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, all things considered.

Obviously, significantly reducing car use is the ultimate goal.

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Could we be staring at "limits to growth"?

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Human ingenuity will solve all...Malthus has been discredited dont you know?

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:-)

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 Sounds familiar. "We estimate that around 10 to 20 % of medium-sized entrepreneurs in Germany are frustrated, would like to quit and are only active because they do not see any livelihood security to risk the break."

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We seem to have missed a step. A better idea is much smaller and lighter cars with smaller turbo charged engines. These cars need to be better cared for by owners so they last longer. Things would be much better if you made your car last 20 or even 30 years. People are just not factoring in what it takes to build a current gen electric vehicle and the effect on the environment before you even get to sit behind the wheel. Its not rocket science, if your old Toyota Corolla is still going long after your new shinny EV has come and gone to the dump, its easy to work out the better option.

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Which is why Japanese imports from the 90s tend to hold their value; manufacturers' success back then depended on actually building durable vehicles, which were easy to repair and maintain.

Business models today depend on people buying new cars every 10 years at least,  and the vehicles are built accordingly - EVs included.

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Totally agree.  20years ago I went to a environmental fair which discussed leasing all vehicles.  This would enable regular safety and tech upgrades keeping cars on the rad for longer etc.  Neo liberalism got in the way of many great ideas like that

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It is strange that technology and research has not yet found out or developed an affordable battery system for vehicles charged/run by solar power. 

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Yes, isn't it strange that the basic laws of physics cann't be changed by human ingenuity.

We humans just have to wish for something and it will happen.

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My EV gets charged from my solar panels and still had a lower cost of ownership than the equivalent ICE.

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Let's have a moratorium on the word 'indigenous'?  Here it means marginal people with little power.  Does it make any difference if their ancestors originated elsewhere?  Recently this word has become the current end of a series of euphemisms: pagans, barbarians, savages, natives and now indigenous people.  It still carries the connotation of inferior and backward. Proof of that is how rarely it is used about Koreans in Korea or Jews in Israel. 

The legal difference between those who own land by traditional custom and those with a purchase registered with a dept of lands is not relevant to lithium mining. 

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Does any of this come as a surprise to anyone? I have an EV bought secondhand, but I am well aware that the vehicle itself is anything but environmentally friendly. Fossil fuels were used in the mining and production processes and what should be obvious is that for a Green Revolution to happen, fossil fuels will continue to be necessary.

Here is just one quote: "Mining of metals is intimately dependent on fossil fuel based energy supply. Like all other industrial activities, without energy, mining does not happen". That come from report 'The Mining of Metals and the Limits to Growth', prepared by the Geological Survey of Finland.

As pdk has been saying for a long time, we need to understand EROI-the energy return of energy invested- and the fact that it has been falling for many years.

 

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Hydrogen may be carbon-neutral but it’s not environmentally-friendly because water vapour is a greenhouse gas. 

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Where did the hydrogen come from?

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Yes, that's a question I haven't had a satisfactory answer to. If tailpipe emissions are that clean environmentally friendly substance, water vapour, what happens to the water vapour emitted? I mean especially in warm climates, does that water vapour result in regional increases in humidity, therefore temperature? I can picture major cities permanently shrouded in fog.  

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Water vapor balances out in the atmosphere after a few days, It is a product of air temp.  Any additional h2o will just precipitate out. The question is what quantity is it relative to existing atmospheric water vapor and will it be noticeable.  My guess is no.

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Perhaps the Amish people had the answer all along.

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If they got that birth rate thing under control, probably yes.  https://medium.com/migration-issues/how-long-until-were-all-amish-268e3d0de87

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That's the way to build houses, no mucking about.

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Amazing, I hope that they were all wearing steel capped boots.

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Not to the severe medical diseases from their lifestyle and the much earlier death rates.

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David - are there any data available comparing the full lifecycle of a petrol vs electric car in terms of carbon footprint of obtaining materials, manufacturing, operation and disposal? Including waste recovery. It feels like electric cars are just green washing but I would like some facts to confirm this. 

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https://theicct.org/publications/global-LCA-passenger-cars-jul2021

But you'll probably ignore it as it doesn't have the result you seem to want

 

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An important issue will be how the energy used in the electric vehicles is assumed to be generated. Presumably this will vary by country. Is this why the results differ considerably by country?
KeithW

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Yes so across the whole life of a car EV's much  better than ICE's in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

They have other environmental issues as DC points out, but so do ICEs. On a net basis, EVs seem to be significantly less bad for the environment than ICEs.

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significantly less bad for the environment

And THAT is the key phrase for this discussion (and most other environmental problems too...). Still bad for the environment, but just less so than ICEs. 

(Although "significant" is debatable as it makes it sound as if they're a lot less polluting in total. "Slightly less bad" might be more accurate )

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Taking into account emissions I would maintain that overall EV's are 'significantly' less bad for the environment, especially given the importance of emission reductions to our future environment.

 

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Alright then.

Fact, they are still unsustainable.

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When the devices are designed to fail early before the lifetime of most of the vehicle or device and it is predominantly to drive more sales the environmental benefits are lost quickly as most comparison lifetime calcs assume devices all have the same lifetime regardless of manufacture or power & control design (when as in NZ they very much don't with maintenance and access to computer part replacements being very very poor). We end up having to junk more modern tech as it is far less repairable in NZ and often less recyclable for raw materials. In many cases even secondhand sales and parts supply has a very poor support history which means the lifetime is far far shorter than in other countries which are closer to the point of manufacture.

 

Now any high school kid can pick apart the study you mentioned on terms such as the study fails to account for the different supply markets and maintenance options available in each country. You might find it far easier in the country of manufacture to source parts for modern devices within a decade but past that and you are doomed and in NZ we do not even have the access of a country near the point of manufacture. It does not even take a genius to know of the major software lifecycle flaws inherent in the design of modern vehicles causing failures while older models last decades.  So the basis for comparison also has very different flaws given the average fleet ages and types in each country are not even considered (requires reading the actual data and assumptions in calculations). But then if the study is so flawed why are you still posting and using it when it has complete gaping holes, well the answer is still marketing and sales. The same problem we had before but now with the hypocritical wrapper of being ignorant and painfully promoting worst product lifecycle management and sales for modern stock harder to near impossible to maintain. (At least when they used sexy women to advertise cars you knew it was obviously a ploy as vehicles did not equal sex).

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What everyone should do is buy a battery lawnmower. They're great , you'll never go back to a petrol one. ditto for weed eaters/ chainsaws etc . Though i guess i've cut more trees down since getting the battery chainsaw .

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How long do the batteries last? (Per charge and lifetime)

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Charge dosnt last long...and forget about mowing wet or long(ish) grass.

The couple of types I use are OK for small regularly mown urban lawns and thats about it.

If they are to replace IC then they will have to improve out of sight...and PDQ

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Colin Furze converted an ICE ride-on mower to electric. He was surprised by how well it worked.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfZMZHI--6A

He was able to cut a lot of grass over several hours, and it only took a few days to fully charge up from solar power.

I accept that it isn't a mass-produced electric push mower, and was using lead-acid batteries and not Li-ion, but it seems to me it's just a factor of having manufacturers willing to make them.

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20 -30 minutes per set of batteries . I have several that do all my power tools . Probably had them 2 or 3 years , havent rebuilt these ones , but have refurbished several other tool batteries.

As for wet / long grass , yes the mower will cut out instantly there is a large load on it.But I find that more of an advantage than a disadvantage you can put your hand instraight way and clear the blockage. you can even turn it upside down . soon as you let go oft he throttle the blades stop . try doing that with a petrol mower. 

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They last shorter than a coffee break and often there will be dud batteries that die within a few months of use with no measure to recycle or send back to manufacturer to replace under warranty. If you wanted a lawn mowed buy 10 large lithium batteries (for the model you are using) and you may get it done in a week.

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With the size of most lawns in new developments a corded weed eater and an extension cord is all you need. 

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Yep battery powered tools are a pain in the ass. The only one I use is a battery powered drill. The newer Lithium ones are great because of the torque for driving in screws. You don't bother with anything else you can run a power cord to or plug an air line into a compressor. Cannot beat 230Vac, its always there and I have a couple of long extension cords. Batteries are always flat for spur of the moment jobs and they need replacement after a few years.

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Disagree completely. I have had my ryobi batteries 6 years now, use them all the time, still going strong. Most are good for 1000 charges, that is once a week for 20 years! Extension leads are a real pain. 

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Yes I don't see much grass in apartment and townhouse blocks, mind you that is because there is very little space and no grass in them.

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I'd questioning the OP's grasp of these technological trends and mining. Several points:

  1. Hydrogen has 'methane' as a operational cost. Solar power is destined to fuel the house of the future, and its a ready-retrofit to all houses; which NZ has an abundance of. 
  2. Fuel cells are expensive, and that's despite being a mature technology. The problem is a great deal of the efficiency stems from 'heat recovery', which doesn't find much application in a car. Yeah, 60% electrical efficiency is great next to traditional ICEs (36%), but its well short of the 96% efficiency of DC power. 
  3. Lithium mining/extraction is one of the most benign forms of mining, next to titanomagnetite mining in Wanganui; but there is no convincing parochial, 'precious' people with self-eggrandising moral postures. 
  4. How can you compare lithium mining, as 'a one off cost' with methane over the life of a vehicle. Lithium will be 100% recyclable, and there remains the potential to rely 100% upon home-generated solar power. 
  5. Is the OP an investor in natural gas production? 
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With this fake empathy queen at the helm, where every action is to draw the admiration of people far far away (in Hollywood), there is no chance that Lithium will ever be mined in New Zealand. Even the people of Serbia have just hamstrung their government by protesting Rio Tinto's massive 3.3Billion Lithium mine. This project would do wonders for the government coffers but the people don't want it. 

**Edit - better link - https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/nov/19/rio-tintos-p…

Lithium batteries have got us this far but their dirty little secret is out in the open now and alternatives are being sought. Huge progress in standard Alakaline Battery technology (like an AA) have recently been achieved and these are now actually being considered as real alternatives and even improvements to Lithium for residential, commercial to utility applications.. They are more stable, less fire risk and are less polluting. 

https://urbanelectricpower.com/

So, like ethical investments have become a big thing these last couple years, I believe that we will see a U-turn from Lithium for environmental reasons and we will see a huge up take in Alkaline battery technology for energy storage and massive improvements and collaboration with the big car companies in battery recycling. The process of battery recycling can be seen in this interesting video.

https://live.cdn.sms-group-connects.com/fileadmin/SMS_group_Website/Vid…

Things are going to change quickly, the fashionable Lithium is becoming like a pariah that genuine greenies will want no part of eventually. 

Interesting times....

 

 

 

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I'd suggest there is still too much pie in the sky stuff with hydrogen, all to do with economics (cost in my book). There are many things achievable with hydrogen from an energy perspective. Its just a convoluted way of getting there and its associated cost. Its not chump change.

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/08/13/the-idiots-answer-to-global-warm…

This one below is interesting regarding energy density, weights, volume and transport.

Not enough scare for MSM. Too sensible.

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/09/24/the-pure-evil-of-hydrogen-hyping/

I'm sure we'll be in for "blood" lithium soon, Just like the diamonds but may not be easy to track like diamonds are.

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Isn't wattsup that fake science blog? Anything that doesn't involve burning hydrocarbons is rubbished by Watts. 

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Like any website one has to try and filter the wheat from the chaff. I believe there is much less chaff on this website than any MSM and even web sites pushing the man made climate change narrative, usually on the extreme side or taking it as done and dusted.

Any example on WUWT website of less than a balanced view are articles that initially appeared on the 2021 Texas blackout. Having a background in electrical engineering in both generation and distribution I knew it would take at least 3 months before any meaningful analysis could be done. Sure enough Austin Uni came up with a report which with not all information at hand gave a reasonably balanced view. I don't have a link but here is the title of the report.

"The Timeline and Events of the February 2021 Texas Electric Grid Blackouts jul21
The University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute"

 

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The question to ask is compared to what? Does oil miraculously appear at petrol stations? Do we conveniently ignore the 40 tonnes of oil emissions an ICE produces during its use?

When assessing environmental impact, you don’t just cherry pick the worse bits, you look at the impact over the whole lifecycle. In NZ with our clean grid and poor car emission standards, the extra EV manufacturing emissions are overcome in less than two years of use.

Here are some typical numbers for NZ

ICE

  • production - 10t
  • use - 40t
  • disposal - 0.2t
  • total - 50.2t

EV

  • production - 13t
  • use - 5t
  • disposal - 0.7t
  • total - 18.7t
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Yes exactly.

And emissions from transport are massive in NZ so transforming the fleet to electric over the next 10-15 years is vital.

I do appreciate David's article noting the downside of EVs though. But those downsides aren't a reason to not heavily promote EVs.

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Lower population is vital, driving EV's is a nice to have. We need to address the main problem head on and stop pandering to the religious zealots.

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Correction of optional and private things there is far more waste emissions and oil burnt in the fashion industry than transport. You would cripple food and housing production while gadding it about in the most wasteful and emissions heavy industries of tech and fashion just to look better but for no function benefit or difference. If you really cared about the environment you would cut buying luxury goods, new clothing, new tech and going to events operated via petrol and diesel. It would be ignorant to not see the massive amounts of more waste in a single music festival than the entirety of your families non necessary trips.

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Yeah but the reality is, your new EV is just not going to last. Cars in general are no longer made to last, its deliberate they want you to buy a new one every 10 years when it could be made to last 30 years. As usual the people think the world is getting a better place but the reality is its sliding backwards.

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Yes indeed. The robustness of most electronic goods these days is terrible. Not just software bloated 'smart' devices, but electronic circuitry. Our 1.8l hatchback dropped off at the wreckers. One ECU failure too many finally beat me (the mechanic with seemingly no vested interest couldn't even nail down the first fault which I managed to fix after a bit of research). So an solid car with still great fuel economy ditched due to poor design and an onboard computer doomed to failure.

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Indeed. Tech planned obsolescence is a severe problem with the big name brands the worst offenders (often with software coded to cut hardware function and deny device use at set dates). The right to repair movement has long pushed for more resource conservation, better future lifecycle planning and to allow people to repair and source/recycle parts for devices. Unfortunately the onboard computers have been made to become obsolescent within a fixed period and this also affects electric and computerized transport & agricultural machines (which is another worldwide concern). When the devices are designed to fail early before the lifetime of most of the vehicle or device and it is predominantly to drive more sales the environmental benefits are lost quickly as most comparison lifetime calcs assume devices all have the same lifetime regardless of manufacture or power & control design when as in NZ they very much don't with maintenance and access to computer part replacements being very very poor.

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Hi do you have links to this data I would be keen to read it thanks

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Any one know what we're going to do with thousands of old windmill blades?

Some kind of composite that probably can't be recycled.

Any one know what their life cycle is?

I guess they'll all go to landfill?

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Again, compared to what? How big an issue issue is this compared to fossil fuel emissions (hint: small)

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Well it is the plastic composite versus recyclable metal turbines for water based generation, except you would need over 100 times more blades for wind and they have a much shorter lifetime than the water generation turbines. Sad that we had the far more robust and renewable power generation but have been completely ditching it when it comes to ensuring future supply and our power network is really really badly setup so it cannot handle more distributed power generation yet no major upgrades are planned to enable it.

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Who cares if they go in the landfill? Everything we produce goes in the landfill - why would we hold wind power to a standard nothing else has to meet?

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Great article. 

Also, the increased EV electrical demand above NZ's "green generation" of hydro and wind is met by burning imported coal at Huntly...

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No surprises there, everything about NZ is fake. 

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In the short term . There will be a lot more wind and other renewables coming online. If the carbon unit cost goes like some a predicting , coal will be history pretty quickly.  there's still some gas and geothermal production sitting idle at the moment , different companies to the coal burning ones, keeping the price up .  

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For example we could incentivise solar like the other civilised countries

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Yes , an EV gives retired people somewhere to put their excess pv power , rather than been paid  bugger all to feed it back into the grid. working people more likely to take the EV to work .     

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Not when NZ modern housing design comes into play and cuts most the sunlight generation and unfortunately the network is not setup to handle more distributed power supply points. We don't even have a guarantee that the houses currently with subsidised solar will still be able to generate power in the next year as they have no rights to that in a neighbourhood. It is always a plan to tax the poor and penalise the vulnerable depending on power for medical devices while the wealthy few in upmarket neighbourhoods reap the benefits from the very real medical harm done to families without the means to have accessible housing. It is very clear to see that is exactly how the existing clean car tax has been designed to severely harm those with disabilities while allowing the wealthy few to reap discounts from the added pain and sufffering on them. Try living without any access to your community next time and no access to workplaces or remote. Try depending on breathing machines while being taxed and charged tens times the rate for what the wealthy have to pay on bills and transport because here is a clue these subsidies are designed to discrimate and ostracise the most vulnerable from their communities. While able bodied tertiary students protest a $3 subsidised bus fare for trips they could walk instead disabled students face over $50 charges a day for the same trip and are given no ability or income to afford or access that transport. That is how subsidies in the green market go, trinkets for the rich, severe crippling sticks to the back of the poorest.

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Hydrogen production has an EROI of around 0.25.....thats bad enough but then you start to look at the storage problems (its f***ing difficult to contain) and you begin to realise how desperate they all are.

https://www.transitionengineering.org/pop_the_hydrogen_bubble

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Water vapour from jet exhausts is a major greenhouse gas

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and international flights pay no carbon or fuel tax whatsoever .

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Yet just clothing industry emissions alone is worse than all airplane and shipping emissions. Funny how the things you push and market the most don't get considered yet the basic rights of access to medical services does for the most vulnerable. Funny how NZders have to beg and scrap up enough money for operations and medication available overseas but can't access, find housing or stay living in their own country.

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Well there is a lot of silliness in there.

the hydrogen plug is misplaced - that efficiency figure may be true for the fuel cell but does that account for the energy loss from the production of the hydrogen? If you combine both I expect it’s a lot worse than the 40-60% quoted.

As for the environmental harm of lithium minimum - you state it’s in the remote desert and the wave hands over the impact on people. Anyone would think coal mining or oil drilling were a green paradise.

The lithium issue isn’t perfect but you should know that you need to drive up the price to spark innovation. As you say there is investment in mining methods and alternative chemistries - the free market is working.

and countries can always regulate the environmental impacts of which will drive impovements.

Finally, your figure of 5-8 years and 100,000kms sounds wrong. The cars usually have battery warranties of 8 years - they wouldn’t give those out if they were expected to fail before. From what I’ve read the batteries last more like 300,000 miles. It really depends on the battery and the supporting technology which is why people favour Tesla.

 

 

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I thought the "energy efficiency" was negative overall...ie you put more in to create the the hydrogen than you get out of it. Will try and find source....

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This video is useful from prof Krumdieck https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=M9AwGLnDI0Q&feature=youtu.be

They state 100MWh is turned in to 26MWh!

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“Rechargeable Li-ion batteries currently last 5 to 8 years, about enough to do 100,000 kms. New advances will undoubtedly make them last longer, but how much is currently a faith-based guess”

Most new EVs have a remaining capacity guarantee at 8 years. Either they will go belly up or this article is FUD  

 

 

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Sadly all batteries have to obey the law of physics. Hence why they can have a max lifetime estimate but that rarely pans out for most and significant battery death does occur before the best lifetime estimates. Sadly many have already found it is cheaper to use dynamite to safely get rid of an Tesla than it is to get the batteries replaced for around the cost of a new vehicle. Most the more modern EV vehicle parts are non recyclable.

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Others have already pointed out the severe flaws with this article.

To your point about this article being FUD when it comes to the 8 year life of an EV battery - you are correct. This is FUD and the article is wrong. The battery can be used in the car for likely double this time, but with decreasing range - but if you're car started with 250km of range, then even if it got down to only 125km per charge that is still going to be useful to someone, even if not you. The battery can also be repurposed for static storage.

Used EV batteries are a new resource stream that is developing. They aren't trash, they're very valuable.

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New Zealand should have an effective battery recycling set up.  But our clueless Labour Government and Wellington civil servants can't be faffed doing that, nor have the skill to organise it.

Look at the situation with tyres.  20 years of mucking up and unpoliced regulation, and we still have tyre mountains secreted about the place. A system when we don't have a system. 

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New Zealanders have been encouraged to pile up waste obliviously for generations, under all sorts of different governments. Overall, I believe a Centre Left government is far more likely to do something about it, than a Right government, which have a record of accelerating waste creation. 

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Don't be silly, NZ couldn't even recycle its own plastic and was shipping it off to China ! There is not a hope in hell we will be recycling EV batteries and I give you one guess where the old ones will be shipped off to. Worse still if EV owners get hit with a recycling charge, then batteries will be going into landfill.

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Has someone got a grant from Exxon for Christmas?

More seriously, fossil fuel use is destroying the planet - moving to EVs will help, but they're not the answer.

The hard reality is that by 2050, in towns and cities, battery-powered personal transport devices will be dominant. People will look back at how absurd it was to use 2 tonnes of metal and plastic to transport 80kg of bones and flesh.

We could get ahead of this by building dedicated personal transport networks where people can travel safely without the threat of imminent death from autoboxes 

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Like a cycle bridge over the harbour for example? Labour canned that but kept the expressway building going despite similar benefit cost ratios. 

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Yes, massively short-sighted. Transport modal mix depends on available usable bandwidth for each mode of transport. If you build more expressways for cars, you will get more car traffic. Build safe space for personal zero emission transport (capped at 40km/h) and you will get an explosion in usage of transport that meets that description.             

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Yet the govt denies the disabled access to transport across the entire country for necessary medical trips which would be a tenth of the cost the cycle bridge has racked up already just in the pie in the sky phase.

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@jfoe.  The car is the greatest personal transport device ever invented.  What it allows us to do is phenomenal.  And each of us wants and gets a different use from them. Amazingly productive. 

Yes, the use of fossil fuels need to stop.  In my view that is transitioning positively, at blinding speed. 

Yes, public transport is needed in the situation where it works for folk.   And I do have two bikes. 

But I don't see the why on warfare on the car. 

 

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Providing alternatives isn’t warfare. 

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Removing access and penalizing the most vulnerable communities is warfare, and also a crime according to the UN and New Zealand laws but hey if they are denied access to basic integration and life in their community and die young no harm done to you right.

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No warfare at all! Like most men of a certain age, I love cars. But, I have also lived in cities (London) where it makes zero sense to own a hunk of metal that sits depreciating on the street 99% of the time because it takes four times longer and costs much more to drive to work, restaurants, leisure etc than it does to take public transport, cycle (or even walk). Car ownership will fade quickly in the next 20 years - we can lament it, or we can plan for it.

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NZ is vastly different to a place like London. I'm a car enthusiast and we'll get to the point where things like petrol are reserved for vehicles of historic interest. But people need to stop pretending that there is a huge amount of liberty, opportunity and the freedom to move around the country that would be surrendered if we were to just give up on cars altogether. Maybe not in megacities, but NZ only has one real global city and the transport network is unlikely to ever be fit for purpose in such a way.

So at some point, any 'get people out of cars' is about making a political point highlighting your own priorities and access to transport, rather than what is feasible and realistic for most Aucklanders. The sad truth about congestion is that we only need to move a few % of cars off the road for our motorways to free-up, and we should be designing a transport system that lets people who have the lifestyle to use public transport actually use it. I'm yet to see the government seriously show an ability to extend the reach of public transport in Auckland.  

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Removing access and penalizing the most vulnerable communities is warfare, and also a crime according to the UN and New Zealand laws but hey if they are denied access to basic integration and life in their community and die young no harm done to you right. As an example able bodied tertiary students protest a $3 subsidised bus fare for trips they could walk instead while disabled students face over $50 charges a day for the same trip and are given no ability or income to afford or access that transport. That is how subsidies in the green market go, trinkets for the rich, severe crippling sticks to the back of the poorest.

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- You can't run existing ICEs on hydrogen, they need very expensive rebuilds to work.

- ICE's designed for hydrogen run at very low efficiency (to ensure no NOx emissions) and therefore use huge amounts of fuel for not much oomph.

- Storing and transporting hydrogen is wickedly difficult and expensive.

- Using hydrogen in a fuel cell to run an electric motor is essentially a vastly less efficient way of storing energy than lithium ion, even before you take into account losses involved in creating the hydrogen in the first place.

- If the cost of lithium is rising too high, it will just drive R+D into other battery chemistry, of which there are a number of very promising alternatives.   

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Plus people are catching on you don't really need that much battery storage in a lot of cases. For someone commuting 20 k.m to work each day , 100 k.m range is fine. Most households would have at least one little car used exclusively for commuting , or other town running . Plus a larger car for longer distance trips etc . Its quite likely the small car never does more than a 100 k.m in a day , and soon there will be charging  avaliable pretty well everywhere. 

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Yes if I could buy a cheap electric car with 50km range that could easily be my commuting car and do probably 70% of the kms of our household. Even if we kept the other ICE that would be a serious decrease in emissions, especially as I would always charge at night when low power demand. 

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You want a slightly bigger battery given that the size determines how many times you're going to recharging that bad boy and wearing it out faster if it's smaller.

I think the E208 is the sweet spot. 250km of range in a Euro hatch, and looks exactly like the ICE version. Also excited to see how the local LFP solution with active cooling for the Nissan Leaf pans out, hopefully get some numbers there soon. 

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Assuming a small lightweight car which is all I need to commute, it should be a small battery that is cheap to replace if needed. Why buy a battery 5x what I need just so it lasts? 

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Because you'd have to charge it five times as much to get the same mileage, which is the biggest source of wear for an EV. There is a sweet spot somewhere between charging every day and charging once a week that most people will probably switch over at, but it costs a bit more than the ICE equivalent for those cars at the moment.

We're not quite at that 'cheap battery replacement for Leafs' bit yet, but it is coming and there are two local solutions which are working on it.

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Last I checked with google we have less that 50 years of oil left at current usage. I don't see how we can have the world population raising there living standard with oil usage for much longer.

At least it is easier to recycle Lithium than petrol.

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What an absolute joke of an article! So full of inaccuracies and misinformation it is not funny. We pay so you can write this dribble?

Please educate yourself @David Chaston

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oVrIHcdxjA

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I thoroughly enjoyed this article. 
These are the unintended consequences of poorly researched government policy. 
 

David, I agree with your comments on fuel sells, but you might like to also have a look at e-fuel being developed by Porsche and Bosch. It reduces carbon emissions by 85% and produces 98 octane fuel that can be delivered through the normal pump infrastructure for ICEs. 
 

https://www.caranddriver.com/news/amp35577611/porsche-synthetic-efuel-c…
 

 

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Hard Rock lithium mines in Oz are  Talison at Greenbushes WA, Galaxy now Allkem AKE at Mt Cattlin near Ravensthorpe WA, and prospecting adjacent to both by, amongst others, Lithium Australia LIT.  The two mines supply around 40% of world lithium demand. More where those came from.....without much in the way of issues, so Dirty is just an emotional putdown methinks....

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I think we are looking at battery waste the wrong way, assuming a 'one and done' 100,000km life span

This is basically false, car batteries have very large storage capacities - even when they no longer are suitable for daily commuting they still have 10-15kw of energy (out of 24kw minimum for the oldest nissan leafs) and they are only getting bigger with newer models

Average houses use 20kw/ day and most of that late morning/ early evening which is plenty to supplement solar systems as load shifting batteries or other smarter uses for another 10-20years beyond the original life in a car

This would mean that markets would be created for 1) replacement batteries 2) repurposed batteries 3) battery recycling

Side note, the average fleet life of vehicles could extend (currently cars last for ~20years before being scrapped) and if batteries could be replaced/ repurposed/ recycled then cars could last beyond what is typical with fossil fuel cars now as they are significantly simpler with fewer wearing parts (assuming rust prevention was improved) which would reduce waste everywhere and not only power cars, but also possibly homes + grid services as well for twice the normal car life

We are looking at short term impacts and not considering 2nd and 3rd order consequences if it was properly implemented and managed 

 

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Sorry David, I can't see hype here but this is called disruptive technology and there's no way we will reverse our course from the age of energy production from combustion to the age of total electrificiation. 

This article seems quite one sided and biased against battery powered electric vehicles (BEVs).

First of all, there is no doubt about BEV production having significant environmental impact but this has to be seen in comparison to the alternatives.

Oil & Gas exploitation is not exactly a clean business. While everyone is presently focussed on CO2 emissions there is a gigantic load of other environmental impacts that come with it. To name a few, leaky oil pipes, oil spills in the ocean due to ships running aground regularly and accidents on oil rigs (Deep Horizon), not to mention the 'accepted' pollution due to drilling and plugging of the sea bed.

Some of the claims stated in the article are just plain wrong and prove it's based on poor research.

For example, the claim the battery lasts for only 100,000km is utter nonsense. Yes, batteries degrade and may have guaranteed capacity for 100,000km but Tesla's battery are designed to last 480,000 to 800,000km!
https://www.google.com/search?q=how+long+does+a+tesla+battery+last

Further, the claim that batteries are dumped and ending up in landfill causing toxic waste.

While this may ocassionally happen, companies like Tesla recycle their batteries to 100% if returned (Yes, that is ONE HUNDRED percent): https://www.tesla.com/en_NZ/support/sustainability-recycling

This recycling happens AFTER the battery has had its second life in a grid backup store for many more years!

The overall estimated energy efficiency (the ration of energy converted into motion, including emissions to produce the vehicle) of an BEV is estimated to be about 64% (this indeed varies by country depending on how much green energy is used).

ICE vehicles have an energy efficiency of around 20%.

Also the viability of hydrogen is grossly overstated. The key issue with hydrogen is the amount of energy lost during hydrogen production and conversion to usable energy. Also fuel cells and components for electrolysis (essential for green hydrogen production) are made of very expensive materials.

This may change with future innovation but for now hydrogen will be reserved for use cases where the required power to weight ratio prohibits the use of batteries (e.g. airplanes) but even there the use of electrofuels might become the fuel of choice.

Japan's hydrogen strategy is based on importing dirty coal / oil based hydrogen from Australia, it's presently not a solution to the climate problem.

There's is loads of other benefits besides the lower pollution (yes there's still pollution!) such as lower cost of ownership, waaaay more torque (fun to drive) and the possibility to power your house, campsite, construction site or smart grid.

No, we're defintely not going back!!!

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100% nightstalker, spot on... Faulty assumptions (only a 100k life) = faulty conclusions

I would still argue electrification is far better for the environment, even from an energy usage perspective it costs me only10kw of power sourced from renewable hydropower in my leaf to travel 60-70km every day vs. what used to be 8 litres of petrol (8x~12kw/litre = ~96KW) for a 3.0litre car

Electric motors are far more energy efficient than petrol cars - ~80% vs. ~20% so use far less to do the same thing

From a pure end-to-end standpoint EV's make sense and save costs

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