Electric vehicles (“EV’s”) are commonly thought of as low/zero emission saviours of the planet. They are not.

China has the world’s largest EV market, and some of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants. In effect, EV’s in China are much more polluting than petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles. In fact, it is estimated that in Shanghai pollution from EV’s kill as many as three times those killed by petrol diesel vehicles.

Norway is aiming to have 100% EV’s by 2025. To do that the government heavily subsidises EV’s, such that they make up 40% of new car sales. But studies show that orders would plummet with removal of subsidies.

Then there is the pollution associated with manufacturing the EV batteries. The most common EV battery has a lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide cathode and graphite anode. The electrolyte is typically an organic solvent containing dissolved salts, such as lithium hexafluorophosphate.

All of these materials need to be mined and processed before being combined to produce battery cells, which are then combined into battery modules, which in turn are combined to form the battery pack. This all requires large amounts of energy from fossil fuels. More pollution.

Finally, very few EV batteries are recycled. The recycling process itself uses energy and the resultant products are often not able to be used in making further batteries.

To conclude, there may be a point to electric vehicles, but they are not a solution to climate change and pollution. In the words of Bjorn Lomborg, President of the think tank Copenhagen Consensus Centre:

“Today, electric cars are simply expensive gadgets heavily subsidised for the wealthy to feel good while doing very little for the planet.”