Electric vehicles aren't as green as you think

Posted 12/29/21

By Neri Franco,Kelsey Greene,Beatrice Hoffman,and Jason Lau "Go green," a slogan we all try to live by, but how easy is it really to "go green?" News of global warming pervades the world's psyche and people are rightfully worried. People are making

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Electric vehicles aren't as green as you think


“Go green,” a slogan we all try to live by, but how easy is it really to “go green?” News of global warming pervades the world’s psyche and people are rightfully worried. People are making changes to lessen their impact on the environment and do their part to make a better world for

future generations. However, not every effort to “go green” is beneficial to the environment.

Everywhere you look on I-95 you see electric cars. Drivers of Teslas and Priuses feel like they are making a difference in the world. They look down on the plebs driving gasoline-powered

cars and feel morally superior. But, how clean are their electric cars? Is it really better for the environment to drive an electric car? Do they know what components it takes to make an

electric battery or what is used to produce the electricity to power their cars? As long as they feel like they are making a difference, ignorance is bliss and the true impact of their cars can be ignored.

Rhode Islanders need to be made aware that the battery for an electric vehicle is the most mineral demanding clean energy technology. The EV battery is mostly made from copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt, and other rare earth minerals. These materials are mined all over the world including Chile, Peru, Australia, Indonesia, and China. The materials are then processedin different parts of the world and manufactured into the components that make up the EV battery. The final step is shipping the EV battery to the plants where they will finally be installed in the vehicles. When all is said and done, the process to make an EV vehicle will have created more carbon emissions than a regular car.

Another growing concern related to electric vehicles is the disposal of lithium-ion batteries, which are most commonly used in electric vehicles. Currently, most of these batteries end up in

landfills even though they can be recycled. There is a huge opportunity to recover, process, and reuse the valuable metals and other materials in the batteries by recycling them instead. Sadly, the recycling rates in the US and EU are less than 5 percent. As the popularity of electric vehicles grows in Rhode Island, these spent lithium-ion batteries will continue to pile up in the Johnston landfill.

The immediate elation of driving off the lot of Flood Ford with your new Mach-E electric vehicle needs to remain a bit in check, at least for now. Despite having a vehicle that will ideally make our world a cleaner place, the issue comes not when you bypass the next half dozen Cumberland Farms Gas Stations on the way home, but when they are plugged in. As of 2020 the United States still uses coal and natural gas to generate nearly 60 percent of the “power ” needed in an electric vehicle. What is just as concerning is that these vehicles are putting additional

pressure on the country’s electrical infrastructure which it has admitted requires an upgrade to meet current needs. As the beloved Muppet character Kermit the Frog used to say, “It is not

easy being green.” Maybe that is true but why push so hard to provide the consumer with so many options when we don’t have clean energy resources as the dominant form of electricity


Every car dealership in Rhode Island has at least one model of an electric car. The salesperson will regale the buyer with tales of how great the car is and how they will help protect the world by driving an electric car. No one will tell the buyer that many of the components of the battery are not eco-friendly and much of the electricity needed is still sourced from unclean energy sources.

The buyer can drive around moral virtue signaling without truly understanding how their decision to drive an electric car will affect the environment.

Neri Franco, Kelsey Greene, Beatrice Hoffman, and Jason Lau are students of the Master of Science in Supply Chain &Business Analytics program at the University of Rhode Island. They have a combined 20-plus years of work experience in transportation, technology, and medical fields.


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