The million-mile battery – but at what cost to the environment?
There are several issues around alternative technologies:
Where do the raw materials come from?
And where does the waste go to?
Battery technologies are notorious for both problems.
The spiralling environmental cost of our lithium battery addiction
As the world scrambles to replace fossil fuels with clean energy, the environmental impact of finding all the lithium required could become a major issue in its own right
Here’s a thoroughly modern riddle: what links the battery in your smartphone with a dead yak floating down a Tibetan river? The answer is lithium – the reactive alkali metal that powers our phones, tablets, laptops and electric cars.
In May 2016, hundreds of protestors threw dead fish onto the streets of Tagong, a town on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. They had plucked them from the waters of the Liqi river, where a toxic chemical leak from the Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium mine had wreaked havoc with the local ecosystem.
There are pictures of masses of dead fish on the surface of the stream. Some eyewitnesses reported seeing cow and yak carcasses floating downstream, dead from drinking contaminated water. It was the third such incident in the space of seven years in an area which has seen a sharp rise in mining activity, including operations run by BYD, the world’ biggest supplier of lithium-ion batteries for smartphones and electric cars. After the second incident, in 2013, officials closed the mine, but when it reopened in April 2016, the fish started dying again.
Lithium-ion batteries are a crucial component of efforts to clean up the planet. The battery of a Tesla Model S has about 12 kilograms of lithium in it, while grid storage solutions that will help balance renewable energy would need much more…
A new lithium battery has just been launched:
To much fanfare in the press:
Tesla battery supplier Catl says new design has one million-mile lifespan
A Chinese car battery-maker says it is ready to manufacture a product capable of powering a vehicle for 1.2 million miles (two million kilometres) across the course of a 16-year lifespan.
Demand for electric vehicles is growing.
The European market for EVs and plug-in hybrids grew by 72% in the first three months of the year compared to the same period in 2019, representing 7% of all delivered new cars, according to research firm Canalys.
In February, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that the UK might ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars as soon as 2032, to help meet the UK’s zero-carbon emission targets.
The Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday that the government is considering offering drivers up to £6,000 to swap their existing cars for electric models next month as part of efforts to boost the UK’s electric car manufacturing industry.