Written by Samya Singh, a grade 11 student
When you search for electric vehicles on Google, the one colour you see is green, a colour associated with all things sustainable. You’ll probably see an image of a car with a leaf growing out of it, or a green charging point. These imply that electric vehicles are better for the environment and that they are more eco-friendly.
Here’s a counterview
While electric vehicles do produce fewer emissions when they run, here’s what you need to think about – EV manufacturing causes more emissions than regular vehicle production. That, however, is not the only cost. There is a human cost as well. Do you know that many lives are lost in the process of manufacturing EVs?
But how are EVs causing deaths?
In order to make the batteries used in electric vehicles, metals like lithium, aluminium and cobalt are needed. Most of these metals can only be obtained through mining.
The working conditions in these mines are usually harsh and dangerous, putting the safety of the workers at risk. Kamoto Copper Company, the world’s largest cobalt producing mine, is a case in point. Located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this mine does not follow safety protocols and worse, uses, child labour – something that is common in the artisanal mining sector, which is part of the informal sector.
Workers, including children, are not formally employed by a company and as a result, have no rights. Moreover, they have to mine without any resources, by hand. They work long hours, with no breaks, and earn very low wages that barely cover their daily expenses.
Furthermore, the workers are not given food or water during their shifts. They are expected to do physically strenuous activity, with improper equipment, while being starved and extremely thirsty. That’s inhumane.
While some may say that not all mines treat their workers in such a harsh way, the truth is that over 70% of them do. Companies like Tesla buy their batteries from Chinese companies whose mines are in Congo, where the workers are exploited.
What should we choose: the climate solution or human rights? That is the question.
To help you answer this seemingly unanswerable question, you must understand how much EVs actually help the environment and contribute to the slowing of climate change.
Do EVs really help slow climate change?
While it is true that EVs produce fewer emissions when running, however, what most don’t know is that they cause more emissions when they are being made. Making an electric car produces roughly the same amount of emissions as a regular (diesel or petrol car) car. However, during the production of the battery for the electric car, more carbon dioxide is emitted.
Here’s some math to help you understand this better:
Making an electric car and a regular car both release between 7 and 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide. In order for the car to have a good range, an electric car battery has the capacity of at least 60 kilowatts per hour. As a result, the making of an electric car, including the battery, will produce 9 more tonnes of carbon dioxide.
So, the truth is, that while electric vehicles produce fewer emissions, their production is harmful to the environment and humans. According to an analysis done by Reuters, an electric vehicle is only cleaner than a regular vehicle when it has travelled 13,500 miles (21,725 km). To put things in perspective, on average, a car travels 200,000 miles (321,869 km) in its lifetime.
This is the cost of innovation
It is evident that the use of electric vehicles will only have a good impact on the environment if most people, as a community, begin using them. Even then, this impact will only be visible after many years. However, do you think the Earth has the amount of metal needed if every person who owns a regular car switches to an EV? The answer is no.
It is clear that the question of whether EVs are worth it or not has no simple answer. There are various arguments for this issue, both of which must be taken into consideration before one advocate for a certain side.
Many people, including myself, assumed that EVs are a great solution to the climate problem. It’s important to read both sides of the story before forming an opinion and advocating for the issue.
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