Sunday, November 28, 2010

EV's Use Resources. ICE's don't?

One of the constant anti-EV arguments I see is that EV's require a large amount of rare resources.  The REE bogeyman, (Rare Earth Elements), frequently raises it's ugly, misguided head.  "China is using up all the rare earth magnets so we can't build electric motors!"  Scary stuff right?  Except for the minor point that you don't need REE's to build electric motors.  The fastest production EV in the world, the Tesla Roadster, doesn't use them, their upcoming Model S sedan doesn't use them, the EV1 didn't use them, the BMW MiniE doesn't use them, and my home conversion doesn't use them.  REE monster, slain.

How about that giant battery pack?  All that lithium!  Well, lithium batteries don't use all that much lithium, and there is plenty of lithium on the planet.  Right now there are lithium mines sitting idle here in the US, not because they don't have lithium, but because the price is too low to make it profitable to mine.  There is plenty of aluminum for hundreds of years by all accounts.  Copper less so but still over 100 years of known deposits with new discoveries happening quite often.  The plastic cases and separators are petroleum based, but if we stop wasting oil by burning it there will be more than enough for batteries.  Finally, none of these resources are destroyed in a battery.  Once it's actually dead all those resources can be recovered.

Now let's look at resources used in an ICE that aren't in an EV.  500+lb of aluminum and steel in a conventional motor and transmission are replaced by less than 200lbs of aluminum, steel, and copper in an electric motor and single speed gear reduction.   We can also subtract the exhaust system, including platinum catalyst in the converter, and copper or aluminum in the radiator.

In the end vehicles of similar weight, be they EV or ICE, will use a similar amount of resources.  EV's just move that weight more efficiently and cleanly.

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