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Before we dig into the dirty truth about electric cars and trucks, I’d like to give you my slant, my view of the world as it pertains to the new wave of vehicles coming on board. I’m a trucker, gear head, and someone concerned about both the social and environmental impact of these new vehicles.
Who doesn’t love instant torque? There’s nothing like the feel of being pushed into the seat back as your car hauls ass from a dead stop. Some of the electric performance models launch harder and faster than a Hemi Cuda of any year. We’ve even covered a bolt-on hybrid supercharger back in Episode 196. It’s one heck of a power add. Check out the 56 Pontiac in the link.
As a trucker, we really have no idea how the over-the-road operations will go. There are so many dynamics involved. Big companies will not be tracking MPG. But I’m betting they’re sure going to try to get the most out of every watt. Safety and economy will always be king in this industry.
For local operations with serious stop and go, electric hybrid is a perfect match. Why not capture the energy used to stop the vehicle, and reuse it when you want to get it moving again?
The Dirty Truth About Electric Cars And Trucks, Batteries
I’m leaving the conversation of where all this electricity will come from for another time. And let’s not even talk about what happens to all these batteries when they’ve outlived their productive life. Let’s just start with today, right now. Let’s look at the batteries, what they’re made of, and where these materials come from. I have no doubt we can find better ways to recycle and dispose of spent batteries. American ingenuity is quite amazing.
Lithium-ion batteries aren’t like lead-acid batteries found in most cars and trucks. Sure, they’re shaped the same, but they’re made of different components. The magic comes from the mineral lithium. The big benefit of these batteries is their ability to charge more rapidly than their lead-acid counterparts.
The way most hybrids operate is by generating electricity through the car’s braking system. Standard cars convert forward movement into heat when the brakes are applied. The heated brake shoes, drums and rotors then cool down for the next braking cycle.
Hybrids create electricity out of that same forward motion, and lithium batteries are better fitted to rapidly store that juice. Through one or more electric motors, that stored juice goes right back to the wheels to get the car rolling again.
But Where Does All That Lithium Come From?
There are no unicorns. You’ll find those batteries in new cars, computers, laptops and hundreds of other devices. Your smartphone wouldn’t work without lithium and several other precious metals that had to come from somewhere.
The truth with lithium is simple. It comes from nations much less concerned with the environment than the USA. Wired.co.uk has one of the more moderate discussions on the topic of lithium mining. South America is rich in the mineral, but there’s little concern for the land or it’s people when they chose the method of mining.
It takes 500,000 gallons of water to produce one ton of lithium in the most common extraction method. And it takes time. Containing that contaminated water seems to be of mixed concern. The spillage has killed it’s share of fish, livestock and wildlife, and little is done for improvement.
The good new is that these mining techniques and systems can all be improved. Lithium could safely and efficiently be mined with considerably less environmental impact.
How About Cobalt In Batteries?
Up until now, I’ve been optimistic about technology and science making our mining processes cleaner and more efficient, but that ends with cobalt. A rare mineral, cobalt is mostly mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with few human rights or environmental regulation.
Much of the process of mining the cobalt takes place mostly within the waste fields of nickel and copper mines, scooping by hand in contaminated water. Much of the work is performed by young children, working 12 hour days. they even drink and cook with the same contaminated water they’re mining through.
Diorama.com has an interesting news piece on one of the mines. It’s sad to watch. There’s little concern over the environmental impact of these trashed mining sites. Worse yet, there’s no concern over human rights, child labor or living conditions of the men, women and children who have no option but mine the sludge for the precious cobalt.
Watch the video in the link. Even Elon Musk says he wants nothing to do with cobalt. Unfortunately, this rare mineral will be hard to replace.
I love speed, torque and horse power. I love clean air, pristine mountains and cool, clear water. When you add up all the disgusting damage caused by mining, making and disposing of batteries, that 30 mpg Jeep in our driveway looks pretty darned good. As for hauling freight, maybe it’s time for the EPA to back off until we learn how stop killing people in the process of saving humanity.
The Rest Of The Show
You have to watch this video. As this guy is hauling ass through winding turns on a race track, OnStar keeps calling to see if everything is okay. Check it out at GMAuthority.com.
How about an armored car robbery that’s destined to become a movie. It involves an armored car with millions inside, big trucks, a construction zone and a backhoe. We found this one at Jalopnik.com.