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  • Less Environmental Impact Than a Pair of Jeans.

    Electric cars are meant to help people reduce their CO2 emissions. One argument we often hear against electric cars is the supposedly huge amount of water consumed in extracting lithium for the battery. Fact or fake news? We turned to an expert for clarity.

  • A car only makes sense if you still have a planet on which you can drive it. Many people are shifting their mindsets so that climate change doesn’t make the Earth uninhabitable – some are even exchanging their vehicles for electric ones. Although major corporations, such as Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler and Renault-Nissan, have shifted their focus to electromobility, it will be several years until the majority of the population gets from A to B using electric rather than combustion technology. Slowing down this switchover is the widespread belief that manufacturing batteries for electric cars consumes large amounts of water. From this perspective, electric cars are also polluters. But is there any weight to this claim?

  • More sustainable than 11 avocados. 

    Maximilian Fichtner is Executive Director of the Helmholtz Institute, a scientific organisation in Ulm, Germany that researches and develops electrochemical battery concepts. An expert in his field, he made an insightful comparison in an interview with the Berliner Tagesspiegel newspaper. Using a 64 kWh battery – the mid-range battery option for the Tesla Model 3 with a range of up to 450 km (approx. 280 miles) – as an example and assuming a lifespan of 2,000 full cycles of charging and discharging, Fichtner did the maths: this battery can last for a total of 900,000 km (just under 560,000 miles).

    3,840 litres of water are needed to produce the lithium that goes into a 64 kWh battery. This sounds like an awful lot you have no reference point for this figure. But when you look at it in relation to the production of other goods, Fichtner explains that the water consumed here would be the equivalent of producing 250 grams of beef. Or ten avocados, 30 cups of coffee or half a pair of jeans. In other words, the much-criticised production of lithium for a 64 kWh battery is more sustainable than making a pair of jeans. “I always wonder why the lithium used in laptops or mobile phones isn't an issue in public opinion... but it’s suddenly a problem when it comes to electric cars,” said Fichtner in an interview with Tagesspiegel Background. Lithium is also used in huge quantities in many industrial and chemical processes.

  • Cobalt-free batteries from 2025. 

    Upon learning that their lithium argument has been debunked, critics of electric cars will probably now move on to the issue of cobalt in electric car batteries. However, our expert clears this up, too. There’s no doubt about it: cobalt will continue to be mined in unspeakably bad conditions in Africa in 2020. But Fichtner reckons the proportion of cobalt in Tesla batteries is just 2.8%. The executive director of the research institute adds that cobalt-free batteries are expected to be on the market from 2025. Corporations such as BMW and Volkswagen have also committed to purchasing the cobalt for their batteries from ethical sources.

    So the cobalt argument is another example of fake news. Isn’t it nice to have someone who adds to the discussion with facts rather than subjective opinions? When it comes to the difficult switch to electromobility, Maximilian Fichtner has just slammed the brakes on two myths.

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