Posts mislead about the environmental impact of electric cars – Advice Eating

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Social media posts repeatedly shared in Australia claim that “500,000 pounds (227 tons) of the earth’s crust” is being excavated to mine the materials for it an electric car battery. This is misleading; Experts said the posts exaggerated the amount of earth that would be excavated for a battery and that electric vehicles have a lower environmental impact than petrol-powered cars.

“I have nothing against electric cars, but let’s not pretend they’re God’s gift to the environment,” tweeted Australian Senator Matt Canavan, who represents the National Party, which is part of the governing coalition in government.

He retweeted a now-deleted post that claimed, “To make each EV car battery, you need to process 25,000 pounds of brine for lithium, 30,000 pounds of ore for cobalt, 5,000 pounds of ore for nickel, and 25,000 pounds of ore for copper.”

“All in all, you dig up 500,000 pounds of earth’s crust for one battery.”

Screenshot of the misleading post taken on May 5, 2022

Screenshots of Canavan’s tweet have been shared in several Facebook posts, including here and here and here.

However, the claims are misleading.

“gross exaggeration”

Peter Newman, a sustainability professor at Australia’s Curtin University, said the numbers in the misleading tweet were a “gross exaggeration” and appeared to assume only one type of electric vehicle battery was available.

“It’s difficult to determine how much soil is displaced during the mining process,” he said. “Factors such as geography, type/concentration of raw materials and recovery rates all affect the bottom line.”

Depending on the type of EV battery, the raw material needed may require a different mining process and therefore displace a different amount of soil, Newman said.

The misleading claim that “500,000 pounds of the earth’s crust will be excavated to make an electric vehicle battery” appears to stem from a report by the Manhattan Institute, which has previously encouraged skepticism about climate change.

The claim was refuted by experts interviewed by AFP.

Ecological damage

Jake Whitehead, head of policy for the Electric Vehicle Council of Australia, said the amount of material moved during the quarrying of raw materials to make electric vehicle batteries is “not the right metric for comparing environmental impacts”.

He said studies have shown that the manufacture, maintenance, power generation and consumption of electric vehicles are still lower than petrol-powered cars.

“As set out in a recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, [EVs] are critical to global decarbonization and net zero by 2050,” he told AFP.

In addition, more than 90 percent of the mined materials used to make electric vehicle batteries are recyclable, Whitehead said.

Marko Paakkinen, research team leader at the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, said that the production of electric car batteries has an impact on the environment, but so does oil production for petrol-powered cars. The associated drilling, accidents and spills also cause environmental damage, he said.

The thousands of kilograms of oil used by petrol vehicles are “also not recyclable, unlike battery metals and most other auto components,” he told AFP.

Berlin-based researcher Georg Bieker of the International Council on Clean Transportation said criticizing the negative impact of mining battery raw materials without also criticizing the impact of human consumption is a “common narrative.”

“Nevertheless, it is right to demand improvements,” he said.

diamond mine

The photo in the posts was shared in a misleading context.

Reverse image and keyword searches revealed that it does indeed depict the Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada, owned and operated by Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto.

The original image was published by the Canadian regional news agency NNSL Media.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading posts (left) and the image published by NNSL Media (right):

Screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading post (left) and that of NNSL Media (right)

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