Wednesday, December 6, 2023

W-EVdnesday #5 Precious Metals

Culture changes usually take a long time; people tend to like the status quo. So it is normal to be unsure and skeptical about new ways of doing things; in fact it is good to think critically, something that is lost on a frighteningly large number of people in today's world. When computers first became the norm for research, back in the early 2000s, as opposed to going to encyclopedias and non-fiction sections of our libraries, we, as teachers, had to first learn and then teach critical thinking skills wrt sources. We taught kids to verify the accuracy of a source, look into credentials, and we drilled into them the fact that anyone, anyone, can make a webpage, and claim 'facts' and relate 'actual incidents' that might be seen as true. We sent them to sites like and Little did we know that in less than two decades formerly respectable news sources would print lies and untruth and unreality in order to garner 'clicks' which were unheard of back then, really, in order to get as much revenue as possible. 

Follow the money is a truism. If you follow the money back to many of the myths circulating about EVs, you will find that oil companies are very skilled at promoting misinformation. One of them is that EVs require mining for lithium for their batteries that is worse for the environment than drilling for oil is.

As someone who has flown over the tar sands of Fort MacMurray, Alberta, it is horrifying and deeply disturbing what has been done and continues to be done to the landscape there. It looks like the moon, grey and black as far as I could see out my plane window. Ask First Nations who live near pipelines, the tar sands, how their fishing and hunting and their own human health is, how their water supply is (undrinkable and in several cases, not even fit to shower in), check the wildlife health in these areas, and you will be utterly shocked.

MacGyver tells me after he proofread my post, that EV car manufacturers are actually getting away from using lithium. They are trying to develop other battery compositions in order to get away from lithium and lower the expense from a business perspective. Battery technology is changing at a frantic pace.

Probably one of the most important facts about lithium batteries is that most of that battery can be reused, 80 - 90% in fact.

Given that carmakers need to eventually cut net emissions from car production to zero, the vision of a circular process from old batteries to new is “less an opportunity and more a necessity”, says David Bott, head of innovation at the Society of Chemical Industry. “At the end of its life, a battery is just a slightly degraded version of its younger self. You just move around the electrons.”
--The Guardian  April 2023

David Bott, the head of innovation at the Society of Chemical Industry, said: “The real thing people forget is once it has been mined, you will end up being able to reuse 80-90% of the metals. You don’t have to go back to the planet to steal more minerals.”
--The Guardian December 2023

How do they reuse the batteries? Well, they can go into forklifts, they can go into batteries used to store solar energy. It's just the tip of the iceberg at this point as to possibilities!

Yes, mining for these precious metals is, at present, expensive and, as any mineral extraction process is, destructive to our earth. Yes, EVs use more precious minerals (lithium, cobalt, to name two off the top of my head) than ICE cars (aluminum, steel, again off the top of my head) but the key is the ability to reuse and recycle these precious metals and make them into new batteries. Fossil fuels get burned, and 'disappear' into the atmosphere, and we know all too well of their detrimental effects and contribution to the warming of our planet.

One thing (of several) I learned in my research for this week's post, is that it is essential to take into consideration all parts of the building process of an EV and an ICE car. Conveniently, many big oil backed articles will omit the terrible toll the extraction process takes on the environment, from the process itself, where, in the tar sands of Alberta and fracking in other parts of the world, water, mixed with sand and chemicals is forced deep into the earth to release natural gas and oil that is naturally trapped deep below the surface. I am happy to state right here that England reinstated its ban on fracking when Rishi Sunak took over from Liz Truss, who had promptly allowed it when she got in. It's a fact that fracking causes shifts in the earth, which are felt as tremors, read, earthquakes, on the surface. Northern Alberta has had many, most recently that I could find in Peace River: 4.5, 4.6 and 3.8 quakes on one Thursday morning in March of this year. They were felt five hours' drive away in Edmonton.

I witnessed the environmental devastation firsthand of using this method: a lake where my family went camping in north/central Alberta that I went back to with my husband and family was reduced to a puddle. So low that we couldn't launch our boat and huge expanses of land were where several feet of beautiful lake water once were. The water was not fit to swim in, and there were no waterfowl to speak of. At the time (this was in the second half of the 90s) we were nonplussed as to what had happened. I asked my dad, but he had no idea either, and hadn't been up there in years, so was totally blown away by our tale. Fracking takes a colossal amount of water, and it has been proven that oil companies are drastically affecting watersheds and lakes and streams in their literal thirst for using water in fracking. Sadly, they get away with it in places like Fort MacMurray because "no one lives up there". Well, yes, in fact, people do. First Peoples. Wildlife. However, as been shown time and again, and currently right now in Gaza, brown (and black) people and their children do not matter in government and big oil and gas eyes.

Speaking of children, another concern raised is by Amnesty International about the use of child labour in cobalt mining. Incidentally lithium and cobalt are in your smartphones, and how often do you replace them, hmm? Okay there are much less precious metals in your phone than in an EV, but consider how many smartphones are in the world, (just in your own family!) and consider how many people are in your country... might make you pause a moment. Did you know that child labour is used in oil extraction in Nigeria? That article is from November 2023.

The basic takeaway is that batteries, or the precious metals within, can be recycled and reused. Data suggests that by 2030, the waste from an EV battery over the car's life will be about the size of a football. There is a definite demand and opportunity for business development for developing and furthering this technology. Some countries, England, for one, Sweden for another, are actively pursuing that development. In a Euronews article from October 2023 article, Sweden has just had a breakthrough in developing that technology: 100% of the aluminum and 98% of the lithium can be reused.

A shift in culture is happening, and you either get with the programme or you get left behind. Here is an excellent blog post about that very thing from one of my favourite humans, Seth Godin, When Was the Last Time You Used a Compass? Here is another post that will make you think, and probably grin, by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

As always, I welcome your questions and comments' hateful comments will be deleted. Extra thanks to Michelle Peet for sending me the link to The Guardian article. They're writing a series of articles if you're interested!


  1. I used a compass two days ago. Hugh had several in all his hunting and tramping gear, he taught me how to use one, and the last one remaining here is probable going to our grandson at Christmas. Hi might already have one, but a spare can be handy. Batteries, we both have iPhones, a laptop and an iPad each, then a camera each with a battery and a spare, I have read that mobile phones have a certain number of charges per battery???Oil? at our dentist yesterday he had his family history book there, with a Coat of Arms on the cover. I found out there is coal in South Africa.So before you sit in the dentist's chair, you learn a new fact !!! No time to read it all, saving it up for a second visit in the New Year.And I am guessing the drill is electric!!!

  2. Thank you for this post. I think the only way people will wake up to the environmental damage being done is for friends and neighbors showing up with facts. Your post will reach many who will read this but won't read a newspaper or magazine article about the same issues. Somehow we need to act together to protect the earth for our children and grandchildren. Maybe this is the way.

  3. The environmental devastation is so sad. The tale of the lake reminds me of a story we heard in Alaska of an entire town needing to move as the water levels rose from the melting of the ice. We are making changes that will take forever to revert back to what they were.

  4. Hi Sandra! Thank you, as always, for providing us with a thought provoking post. I am now on a waiting list for an EV. I don't know how long it will be but they are giving me a good price for my Hybrid so hopefully it will come in soon. My car payment will also go down so I think that's a true win/win/win. Making a positive reduction in my global footprint tickles me the most. It's a small drop in the bucket but we all know those drops add up. {{Hugs}} a bunch! I look forward to what's next in the series. ~smile~ Roseanne