Why the electric car is ecological nonsense

The first element to consider when analyzing the balance and impact of the electric car is the need for metals. As experts in mining, metals and mobility production such as Philippe Bihouix, Aurore Stéphant or Laurent Castagniède explain very well, the electric car is a great consumer of metals, in particular rare metals, for its battery. However, the name “rare metals” does not come out of nowhere. This does not mean that these metals are only found in a few places on the planet. You can find them almost everywhere (see the book The War of the Rare Metals by Guillaume Pitron, The Links that Liberate, 2018). But that means they are in such small amounts in the Earth’s crust that monstrous amounts of energy, water and solvents must be employed in order to mine them and extract them from the ground. For comparison, it takes several kilograms of lithium, cobalt, manganese or nickel to make a small electric car, while only a few grams are needed for a phone or laptop.1. Since the mining production of this type of metal is a real human and environmental problem in certain regions of the world, imagine the titanic rebound effect if all humanity ran on electricity alone!

Do traditional cars also consume metals? Yes, of course and increasingly with the addition of digital functions, but necessarily less than electric vehicles, precisely because of the battery.

Another problem is that the distribution of these metals (cobalt, lithium, manganese, nickel) is even smaller than that of petroleum. The best deposits, the most profitable and easily exploitable, are found in few places on the planet. Imagine the geopolitical, diplomatic and strategic consequences if the majority of humanity becomes dependent on a resource even more critical than oil… However, the main ecological problem of electric cars is in the process of transformation.

Indeed, to build the batteries and the various elements of these cars, it is necessary to create new factories, which use a lot of electricity, often carbon-based (China, for example, is still mainly powered by coal-fired power stations). The same goes for Germany, whose auto industry largely runs on natural gas. By wanting to replace the fleet of traditional cars with electric ones, we create new energy needs in an increasingly tense situation due to inflation, the effects of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, etc.

At the time of its arrival on the market, the electric car is therefore much more polluting than the traditional car.two. Certainly, but does it reach use? Well, not necessarily. In fact, to recharge an electric car, it must be connected to the grid. However, for this, it is not only necessary to create additional current in the network, but also to place the necessary infrastructure, such as charging stations, cables, transformers, etc. All this requires resources and metals, such as copper for example, already in a particularly critical state on our planet. And given the current situation and risks to the electrical grid in Europe, which is seriously threatened by cuts this winter, boosting demand through the democratization of electric vehicles doesn’t seem like the best idea.

Finally, the electric car also poses problems in terms of individual freedoms. Imagine that in times of crisis and energy shortage, an “energy pass”, a rationing if you will, is put in place in electricity. It is then possible that you will no longer be able to recharge your vehicle at certain times of the day, regardless of the Kwh price. And with all the digital inside the new vehicles, it’s also possible to imagine the allowed number of kilometers being limited and your vehicle simply turning off after a while, no matter what the battery’s state of charge. These scenarios are entirely plausible and go directly against freedom of movement.

But why has this means of transport been so promoted and defended in recent years, especially in Switzerland, through the documentary “A contresens” by Marc Muller and Jonas Schneiter? Without getting into polemics, it is enough to note that the West wanted to buy an “ecological” conscience to maintain its way of life (excess consumption, individual mobility, etc.). For this, it was necessary to outsource the disastrous consequences for China or Africa (child labor, water and air pollution, etc.). Marketing and lobbying were mobilized to convey the idea that transitional energy is “green”, efficient, and requires vehicle fleet renewal.

To conclude, it is certain that the excessive consumption of petroleum derivatives, a resource that is not produced in Switzerland, is an ecological, economic (trade balance) and strategic problem. Switzerland’s energy independence will not be achieved without a gradual departure from dependence on oil, particularly in motorisation. However, the electric car, in addition to not being a sustainable and satisfactory solution, creates other problems, sometimes more difficult to overcome than hydrocarbons.

However, alternatives exist and could be much more supported and financed by manufacturers and politicians. First, sobriety and rationality in travel, so as not to waste energy, an increasingly scarce resource these days, largely due to the lack of vision of our leaders. So, the possibility of creating other types of fuels for motorization, such as blue oil (made from algae that capture COtwo and are refined) or hydrogen vehicles. It is not the solutions that are lacking, but the political and economic will to disseminate them in society. Let us hope that the current and future energy crisis will serve as a lesson for the West in this area.

1Watch Aurore Stéphant’s interview on the “Thinkeview” channel from 1:12’37.

twoSee the European agency’s report on the environment.

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