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LETTER: Electric vehicles are not a silver bullet

Manufacturing and energy production must be considered.
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Dear Editor:

If one compares the full cycle of electric vehicles from manufacture, use and destruction or recycling, they aren’t much better than internal combustion engine alternatives. They maybe worse.

Electric car engines and batteries require lots of high quality metals such as copper, cobalt, nickel and lithium. Some require “rare earth” metals that are not overly abundant.

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Mining and refining all of these is energy intensive, environmentally damaging, and some must be sourced from countries with abysmal human rights records.

Recycling all of this could also prove to be a huge, energy intense effort.

Some provinces and states are blessed with renewable hydro, solar and wind power to generate the electricity needed to power electric vehicles. British Columbia is one of them. So, on balance electric vehicles maybe better than internal combustion engines if sourcing, manufacturing and recycling are optimum. Currently they are not.

Other jurisdictions are not so lucky. They generate their electricity by burning coal, oil or gas. They create greenhouses gases to produce the electricity that electric vehicles need. In effect, we are transferring pollution from the cities to more remote locations where the electricity is being generated, out of sight, out of mind.

In distributing electricity from source to use there is also loss, typically in the 10 to 15 per cent range depending on infrastructure and distance. City dwellers may be happy with less pollution but the environment will not have benefited.

Governments in the United States and Canada have embraced electric vehicles in a big way. They are funding charging stations and offer subsidies for people to buy these pricier vehicles. Many see this as the green silver bullet. Change over to electric vehicles and our global warming problems are solved so we can continue polluting on virtually every other front.

Beware of green silver bullets.

Steve Burke

West Kelowna

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