Electric Vehicles and African Child Labor

A few weeks ago I devoted three WDEV radio scripts to the pros and cons of switching to an electric vehicle. This is a large topic to deal with in five minutes of air time, so I want to add two thoughts now.

After citing some advantages, I said “Their vulnerable point is the thousand-pound battery. Repeated discharging and recharging cycles degrade it, and operation in cold climates diminishes performance and battery life, reasonably estimated to be fifteen years.”

One of the EV experts I learn from emailed to tell me that my 15 year estimate for lifetime  of a thousand pound EV battery was far too high in actual operation. He said eight years was a far better practical estimate. I was far too generous with the fifteen years.

Another input was more interesting. It featured an article on this point by an old friend of mine, Amory Lovins, one of the really inventive minds of our time, who Sen. Shumlin brought in to address the legislature here in 2007.

To my charge that cobalt, mined by children in Africa under appalling conditions,  is essential to battery composition, Amory writes that that is true now for one class of car-battery chemistries, but others use little cobalt or none at all. Standard-range Tesla cars’ batteries use no cobalt.

What I said was true at this moment, but Amory believes that new technologies like iron-nitride and control software and power electronics made of silicon may soon conquer the cobalt problem.


Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Enter Comment Here:

  • Christian M
    commented 2022-05-09 12:43:02 -0400
    Too often I think all of us are quick to criticize and move-on from an issue. Following up on statements we have made in the past in light of additional information is critical. Thanks John for leading on that with this piece.
  • Kevin Dougherty
    commented 2022-05-06 23:25:05 -0400
    While true, and a common argument pro EVs, is it wise to charge head long into a technology based on a promise that it will be improved in the future? Food for thought.
  • David Flemming
    published this page in EAI Blog 2022-04-28 17:14:01 -0400