Will R&D in Electric Vehicles lead to a sustainable future?

Brice Preston Brown
5 min readJan 19, 2021
Electric vehicle currently charging. Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

As electric vehicles are entering the market at an increasing rate as IEA, International Energy Agency, reported, “2018 was another record-breaking year for global electric car sales (1.98 million)” discussion as to whether they are more advantageous than combustion-based vehicles is littered in the media. They have deep underlying emissions and harmful substances that usually plague the beginning and ending life cycle.

Many people raise the issue that even though tailpipe emissions of EVs are eco-friendly, the batteries used in those vehicles may not be. Most mainstream lithium-ion batteries contain cobalt, or as Ellon Airhart, a writer for WIRED, calls it, “the blood diamonds of batteries.” This is due to the human rights violations that are involved in the mining of cobalt as stated in the WIRED article. Companies are combating this issue in different ways. Tesla, who is one of the main contributors to the EV movement, are searching for ways to reduce the amount of cobalt in their batteries. Panasonic, one of Tesla’s battery contributors, stated, “[w]e are aiming to achieve zero usage [of cobalt] in the near future … we have already cut down cobalt usage substantially,” According to Jack Farchy and Mark Gurman, writers for Bloomberg, other companies such as Apple source their cobalt directly from the miners to address human rights standards. Cobalt is not the only issue surrounding the battery.

Lifetime cycle emissions are the emissions produced from the sourcing of materials and the creation of vehicles. Obtaining lifetime cycle emissions data is difficult and sometimes inaccurate. Isolating the different stages of development can be useful in estimating emission levels. According to James Ellsmoor, a former writer for Forbes, we can determine the battery emissions for example, “[c]hinese EV battery manufacturers produce up to 60% more CO2 during fabrication than ICEV[Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle] engine production …” Despite the CO2 being produced in the production of EVs, electric cars are more sustainable for their surrounding environment than their combustion engine counterparts. In addition, battery electric vehicles produce fewer greenhouse gasses than internal combustion vehicles. Timothy Barder, Ph.D. who has expertise in Scientific Assessments, notes that battery electric…

Brice Preston Brown

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