The rush to mine lithium could dry up the high Andes

(e360.yale.edu)

122 points | by thread_id 9 days ago

12 comments

  • gr1zzlybe4r 9 days ago
    EVs are the biggest false solution out there. We are looking at decimating larger and larger portions of the planet just to preserve our stubborn dependence on automobiles.

    I like automobiles and don't want them banned, but the real problem that we have is that we're dependent on an unscalable transportation solution: cars.

    • simondotau 9 days ago
      It might seem that way today, but scaling up the EV adoption looks very different to scaling up fossil fuel consumption. It won’t be long before demand for battery minerals is mostly satisfied by recycling — and the need for ongoing mining of virgin material is mostly eliminated.

      Furthermore, lithium is an extremely abundant mineral. It's available pretty much everywhere, including the deserts of Nevada and Australia. The idea that we have to destroy rare ecosystems to get it is ridiculous.

      • Retric 9 days ago
        Yes, Lithium is roughly as abundant in earths crust as Lead. A normal car’s lead acid battery has ~9kg of Lead, while a 100kWh battery pack needs ~16kg of Lithium which currently costs around 1,100$.

        It’s not that Lithium is actually going to be in short supply, it simply collects in different areas.

        • pkphilip 9 days ago
          The difference is that it takes very little lead to make a lead acid battery because the entire car is not powered only by that battery.. that is not the case with EVs. It is estimated that it takes 500,000lbs of ore needs to be mined to get enough material for a single EV car's battery
          • celtain 9 days ago
            https://qz.com/2156463/why-elon-musk-wants-tesla-to-start-mi...

            >the average electric vehicle battery requires around 10 kg of [lithium]. In turn, 5.3 tons of lithium carbonate ore yield one ton of lithium

            This would suggest that 53kg of ore would be enough to provide one car's worth of lithium.

            • RugnirViking 9 days ago
              thats wild, the idea you could fairly easily lift the ore needed to make a lithium battery. I thought electric cars were significantly heavier than ICE cars because of the battery? maybe its other minerals that make up the rest of the battery?
              • simondotau 9 days ago
                Yes, the bulk of the weight are metals like nickel and manganese. Lithium is a critical component but isn’t the dominant component of the battery’s mass.
          • cantaloupe 9 days ago
            Do you have a source for that estimate? Seems truly absurd. I found a source that you are perhaps misquoting: 400,000 gallons of water are used produce 1 ton of lithium from brine [1]. It also apparently takes 8 kilograms for an EV battery [2]. So 3500 gallons per vehicle.

            [1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/mining-lithium-for...

            [2] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/07/electric-vehicles-wor...

          • Fatnino 8 days ago
            The vast majority of lead used today is recycled. The rest is mined incidentally while extracting silver.

            I could see this happening for lithium also. Get the quantity in global circulation to the level we need and then live off that for the future.

          • mburee 9 days ago
            The volume of a kg of lead and lithium is also just vastly different
            • elevaet 9 days ago
              In cas anyone else was curious, I just looked it up: Lead has about 21.3x the density of lithium.
      • xhevahir 9 days ago
        I don't know. There are lots of other places where you can get tin and zinc and so on, but that hasn't stopped people from wrecking lots of Bolivia in order to mine them. If the demand is there some poor and/or corrupt countries are probably going to supply the metals regardless of the risks to the environment.
        • simondotau 6 days ago
          Completely agree. My point is only that it isn’t necessary. And frankly it should be up to governments to provide leadership when there is a stark ethical choice that’s so many steps removed from consumer choice.
      • sbaiddn 9 days ago
        Abundance doesnt mean its easy or clean to mine. Al is one the most abundant elements in the Earth's crust, but extracting it is brutally destructive.

        Now, you can say the same thing for oil. Sure. But EVs are bad for the environment and its not obvious they're even a net good.

        • shiftpgdn 9 days ago
          Destructive extraction of lithium is completely a myth. There is currently enough lithium in Texas oil wells that were capped because they were full of salt water that’s easily extracted and evap pooled to satisfy global lithium demand for 100 years.
          • sbaiddn 9 days ago
            Im skeptical, so Ill need a reference, but consider:

            - You're commenting on a thread about a collapsing water table due to Li extraction.

            - Li's price has risen and projected to continue to do so for quite some time.

            - You post that Li extraction is cheap, clean and widely available in TX (perhaps the most covetous state of the Union?). Money is literally in a capped oil well and Texans are too lazy to pick it up.

            Perhaps Li isn't as easy and clean to extract as you were led to believe?

            • simondotau 9 days ago
              The limiting factor on lithium isn't raw material availability or extraction, it's refinement. Approximately 80% of the world's lithium refinery capacity is located in China. Nobody is refining lithium at scale in North America, so I'd say it's obvious why nobody's rushing to pay American-level salaries to suck it out of wells in Texas.

              Tesla has expressed interest in developing a lithium refinery in Texas, so we might see some hoses drinking from those old wells soon enough.

            • shiftpgdn 9 days ago
              https://www.csx.com/index.cfm/customers/piedmont-lithium-cho...

              Brine has to be pumped to evap pools and then refined.

              • TrapLord_Rhodo 9 days ago
                From your article.

                >Piedmont Lithium .. will establish a lithium hydroxide processing, refining and manufacturing facility in Southeast Tennessee

                I don't think Piedmont is getting into the ore, or brine extraction. They are processing the salts into hydroxide.

                Funny enough, soon after this announcement, elon announced his intention to do the same with Tesla.

        • scythe 9 days ago
          We extract way, way more aluminum than we ever will — or could — lithium. Annual aluminum production is about 64 million tons. Total lithium resources — the sum of all known economically viable deposits — are 86 million tons.

          >its not obvious they're even a net good.

          It is extremely obvious. Even if the relevant region of the Andes is completely desertified (which I would prefer not happen) the scale of impact is a pittance next to global warming.

          • wiredfool 9 days ago
            That's about the numbers that I've seen - https://climateminerals.org/data-snapshot/lithium (disclaimer, I worked on this app)

            For the most part, Countries are currently mining/producing about 1% of their reserves per year (roughly), and that's a fraction of the resources (which is the 86 MT number).

            From the data though -- Reserves seem to be climbing over time, so while there is a dramatic uptick in lithium mining, it doesn't seem like we've hit peak reserve/resources yet.

          • sbaiddn 9 days ago
            "Even if the relevant region of the Andes is completely desertified (which I would prefer not happen)"

            My dad comes from that region so I really appreciate that you'd rather the area not become a desert just so some SV bro can virtue signal with a Tesla.

            Personally, Id rather Californians used their own water to extract their own Li to power their own Teslas.

            As to the obviousness of the net good, actually it isn't. Thats why studies are done. Even if it's a net environmental benefit (comparing different types of pollution is a massive value judgement, btw) it doesn't follow its ethically a benefit for the reason outlines above - why should by father's family become environmental refugees?

            • scythe 9 days ago
              >As to the obviousness of the net good, actually it isn't.

              You're comparing losing a small part of the Andes to half the Mediterranean basin (desertification), a third of the Amazon, the whole world's coastline below 2 meters AMSL, and we don't even know what to expect from the effects of heat stress on wildlife, but we can expect it to kill plenty of people directly. And that's just what I can fit in a sentence.

              https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-what-climate-models-te...

              Damage to the environment of the subtropical Andes is probably avoidable and should be avoided. There are other ways to get lithium. There are also alternatives to evaporation ponds that could let you put water back in the ground. But it's annoying when everyone thinks their pet issue is as important as the worst environmental threat humanity has faced in recorded history.

      • Victerius 9 days ago
        > Furthermore, lithium is an extremely abundant mineral. The idea that we have to destroy rare ecosystems to get it is ridiculous.

        1880 AD: Furthermore, oil is an extremely abundant resource. The idea that we have to destroy rare ecosystems to get it is ridiculous.

        142 years later: Look how they massacred my boy

        • smileysteve 9 days ago
          16kg of lithium lasts ~2000 (*200 miles) recharges and can be recycled into a new battery pack with little lithium loss and a some energy input.

          16kg of gasoline lasts 1 "cycle" for 18-45 miles. The output requires significant energy input to capture and convert the co2 and H2O back into a fuel.

          • lostlogin 9 days ago
            Are you saying you get 18-45 miles from 16kgs of gasoline? If so, that’s amazingly bad.
        • jjoonathan 9 days ago
          EVs don't work by burning lithium into the atmosphere.
        • simondotau 9 days ago
          Equating a single-use combustion fuel with the metals/minerals in a reusable and very highly recyclable battery is ridiculous.
    • leesec 9 days ago
      Pretending like the largest economy in the world can just snap it's fingers and implement trains and public transit across a huge landmass is the biggest false solution out there.
      • TaylorAlexander 9 days ago
        Who said anything about snapping our fingers? The scale of mobilization required to replace our cars with EVs is staggering. While we’re making all these changes it’s a great time to look at how we can improve our cities for other forms of transport. Most people aren’t going across “a huge landmass” they’re going from the outskirts of a metro area to the center and back. A combination of transport, bike lanes and public ebike programs, and sound zoning laws and building incentives are absolutely worth discussing.

        There is a chasm between “EVs are a false solution” and “we can snap out fingers and implement transit”.

        • _ph_ 9 days ago
          How is the switch to electric cars a "staggering scale"? It is done as part of the natural renewal. Cars are driven for 10-15 years until they are scrapped and replaced with a new car. This should be electric the next time around. So the effort to build them is about the same as to build the next ICE car you would have bought otherwise. Yes, it requires retooling in the factories, but partially that also happens between car generations.

          I am all for reducing the share of cars in traffic, but that will take quite some time and not replace all cars. So we need more environment friendly cars and those would be electric.

          • TaylorAlexander 9 days ago
            The system to build ICE cars has been around for decades. Building ICE cars at the replacement rate represents the status quo. But now all of a sudden we have huge demand for resources not previously required - lithium, cobalt, manganese, and graphite. This means new mining operations spinning up all over the world. At the same time, this new market opportunity has led to a whole bunch of new EV companies making new factories, and major retooling efforts for existing factories.

            These changes are tied to the demand for a resource intensive new product in a way which barely compares to the established production of ICE vehicles using supply chains that are decades old. With all that this requires, we can certainly spend a little time thinking about painting bike lanes and subsidizing ebikes. You can make 80-100 ebike batteries or you can make a single electric car battery. We should really consider how diversifying our transport infrastructure could facilitate a faster change to electric transport while reducing our impact on the natural world.

            Note that I agree with you - if we are going to have cars then they should ideally be electric. But some people see EVs as kind of an ultimate solution, and those people are mistaken. Which is why I and many others are screaming about the need to look at transportation in a holistic way rather than a one size fits all "replace ICE with EVs" approach. Cars were never ideal to begin with, lets not perpetuate old mistakes with a new resource intensive type of car.

        • flakeoil 9 days ago
          I believe self-driving cars will partly solve this. Instead of waiting for a bus that leaves every 15 minutes, there is a car leaving every 30 seconds.

          Instead of buying a car, you pay for a subscription. Instead of taking your own car you call a car to come at your house and pick you up.

          Less cars standing parked at the parking lots at the office 8-10 hours a day. Less cars parked at the grocery stores. Less cars parked at home.

          Less cars needed to be built to transport the same amount of people as today.

          • lostlogin 9 days ago
            I’m imagining the dirty, smelly, damaged car that I get blamed for breaking which was actually ruined by the previous user. It turned up late as there were too few in my area due to an event across town. My ‘moderate user’ plan wasn’t a ’plus’ plan for priority access and anyway, I’ve been down ranked due to the damage I didn’t cause.

            Customer service is non-existent and I can’t afford to pay to remove the down rank event.

          • TaylorAlexander 8 days ago
            You can build 80 ebike batteries for the same material cost as one electric car battery. If we focus purely on cars, we are seriously shooting ourselves in the foot compared to a diversified transport strategy. We still need electric cars, but I am saying we cannot view electric cars as the single one size fits all solution.

            Also it is hard to imaging taking a car to the grocery store, shopping for ten minutes, and then waiting for a new car versus hiring the car to stay waiting.

        • quonn 7 days ago
          It would be useful to look outside the US for both the opportunities as well as the limitations. I was recently downvoted for defending cars (EVs) and I was talking from a european perspective where public transport is very developed. Nevertheless there are limitations and always will be.
      • wahern 9 days ago
        The population-weighted density of the U.S. is approximately the same as Europe, especially Central and Northern Europe. Standard density, the measure which leads people to believe the U.S. to be sparsely populated, is a useless metric, only suitable for questions like how much uninhabited land exists per capita.

        However, similar density (standard or population-weighted) alone doesn't automatically make public transit any more politically or socially viable. According to an early paper on COVID-19 death rates, population-weight density (but not standard density) could explain cross-country variance in the initial rate of spread of COVID-19, but not the subsequent evolution of the pandemic. https://arxiv.org/pdf/2005.01167.pdf For the latter, the researchers needed to turn to the Hofstede cross-cultural measure of individualism to explain country variance.

        That points to the more likely reason the U.S. has trouble with public transit--not because we live sparsely (we don't), but because of our highly individualistic culture. IOW, we don't like it. Indeed, as COVID-19 has arguably shown, as compared to many other countries, we would literally prefer to die than to be more pro-social.

      • socialismisok 9 days ago
        Only because we haven't tried. We could absolutely lay electrified track between our population centers. We choose not to, because the automobile is so built into our collective culture.

        Should we move to EVs while we're building trains? Of course. Have we started moving to EVs without any movement on trains? Sadly, yes.

        • s1artibartfast 9 days ago
          California Tried. They spent more than the transportation budget of most European countries and have very little to show for it besides higher taxes.
          • alamortsubite 9 days ago
            California is trying. It was only yesterday that they eliminated minimum parking requirements, which stand in direct opposition to improvements to public transportation.

            You may not realize it, but California's GDP is many times "most European countries." They have a way to go to catch up.

            • s1artibartfast 9 days ago
              In case it wasn't clear, I am talk specifically about California high speed rail. The parent was we have tried to connect urban centers with rail.

              This is because the US is no longer capable of infrastructure projects. There are number of reasons why and good articles on the topic if you are interested.

          • socialismisok 9 days ago
            California is bigger in both geography and income than most European countries, so I'd expect them to spend more than most European countries.

            And higher taxes usually come before the results.

            Also, California has Elon Musk doing everything he can to avoid hearing the word "train".

      • munk-a 9 days ago
        In the 1970s Amsterdam looked like pretty much any American city - it may have taken a few decades but changing the transportation focus of a city is an extremely accomplishable goal.
        • aeyes 9 days ago
          Amsterdam never looked like American cities, central Amsterdam doesn't even have roads where cars would fit.

          Since 150 years an extensive tram network existed, with horse carriages like in many other European cities before it was electrified.

          Every part of the city is walkable and always has been.

          Few cities in the US are comparable, maybe New York but it's not really desirable to live there for a lot of reasons - being full of cars in a place where none should be being one of them.

          • Moru 9 days ago
            The european cities have a problem with roads not broad enough for cars. In a city that have broad roads that fits more than four car lanes, you can easily split one lane off physically from the car road and make it into a two-way bike lane.

            When the population are used to this and the car trafic goes down, the bike lane will be too crowded to be a two-way. Then you do the same on the other side of the street and make them both one-way roads with car lanes in the middle.

            In our town they are rebuilding the bus stops on streets so if two busses stop, they will block the whole road for car traffic. The bikes can pass on the separate bike lanes though. This by design so people will choose bike instead of car. Not quite thought through though since this will also block blue-light traffic...

          • lostlogin 9 days ago
            So there is more space in US cities, but it can’t be done?
            • aeyes 9 days ago
              Population density is too low because cities were designed with cars in mind. 50% of the population lives in the suburbs where it is just too far to walk anywhere and even if you look at more densely populated places everything is still quite far away. Nobody wants to walk 20 minutes just to get from their house to the bus stop and even if they did, you can't make low intervals for bus routes work - much less outside of peak hours. But to replace cars by public transportation you need it to be reachable, high interval and ideally available around the clock.

              Labor cost and cost of living is so high that it prohibits the existence of small neighborhood stores. I live in South America and have lived in many different places here, you can buy everything within walking distance wherever you are. In my neighborhood probably 5% of the houses have a small shop. Twice per week the streets turn into a market in different parts of the city. Even in the big cities you have small convenience stores operated by families in every corner. Public transportation is probably the best in the world, you can go anywhere without a car for very low prices - even for our income levels.

              Europe is somewhat in the middle between these two. Public transportation doesn't get you everywhere and its expensive. Most small stores which existed 30 years ago are dead because of supermarkets and online stores. You still won't see extreme examples of a car-centered culture like public high schools with 5000 students and you can usually get to a smaller supermarket within 15 minutes. But having higher labor cost lead to more centralization.

              Also keep in mind that the first thing people buy once they have money is a car, even if public transportation works. You see this in places like China. We won't get rid of cars anytime soon. The best outcome we can hope for within the next 50 years is driverless ridesharing.

      • epistasis 9 days ago
        Of course we could, the problem isn't the size of the landmass, the problem is the stubbornness of our brain mass.

        We radically modified our country for cars in a very short amount of time. We can do the san with cheaper and more efficient transit methods in a shorter amount of time, for at least a core that covers 60% of people in very little time, if that is what we wanted.

        Instead we have public processes that take five years to decide on installing a bike lane. We took all the inefficiency of centra planning, then took away the only advantage, speed of decisions.

      • helloooooooo 9 days ago
        The second largest economy did it in the span of 2 decades.
      • davidw 9 days ago
        It's not finger snapping, it's incremental changes like this:

        https://cayimby.org/california-yimby-statement-on-governor-s...

      • whazor 9 days ago
        Electric bikes and cargo bikes are having a very big growth world wide. They are ideal for taking over small trips under eight miles.

        Whereas self-driving cars have the potential for taking over the bigger trips. A self-driving car does not need to park, so ideally it drops you of at a 'bus' stop nearby and you walk the part yourself. This also separates the cars from the urban centres and makes the self driving problem much less hard.

      • rhplus 9 days ago
        Most cars (and car batteries) are idle for 22+ hours a day. Mass transit isn’t the only optimization. We could gain efficiencies by making better use of the cars that are already sitting on our city streets through automation and on-demand car sharing.
        • nightfly 9 days ago
          Yet somehow things like Uber have worked out to be more expensive for consumers than taxis or private car ownership. Plus most people need vehicles during the same blocks of time, you can't load balance them (easily)
          • Ekaros 9 days ago
            Rush hours are a thing... There shouldn't be such time if the demand was evenly spread, and that should be entirely possible after all nothing stops everyone from freely choosing their time of use of road when there is less users...
          • mod 9 days ago
            "somehow" is because Uber isn't car sharing.

            With minimal effort I could align my schedule to share my car with almost anyone, if I didn't have to drive it.

      • cpursley 9 days ago
        Why not? The largest country in the world with even more difficult terrain and smaller population has.
      • lm28469 9 days ago
        I mean you can snap your finger and throw 2+ trillion dollars to go fuck up the middle east.

        Train tracks are much much much easier and cheaper to build than your planes and bombs, albeit less profitable

      • Victerius 9 days ago
        We've tried nothing, and we're out of ideas.

        I'm looking forward to revisit this comment when we run out of raw materials for EVs and all the tooling and expertise to make ICE cars is long gone. Should be fun.

        • wolfram74 9 days ago
          I'm assuming this statement is about the shortage of battery components and that over generational time scales we'll run out of the parts for that, since otherwise it's very similar components between ICE vs EV.

          Lead acid batteries are recycled at a rate of ~99%[0], is there a good argument for why we won't end in a similar regulatory environment for other transport scale batteries?

          I'm a big fan of non-car solutions (I just biked back from my neighborhood grocery store), but if someone's gonna buy a car, I'd rather it not be combusting continuously to run.

          [0]https://www.energy-storage.news/lead-acid-batteries-are-us-m...

          • danielheath 9 days ago
            Lead acid batteries have an energy density about 1/10th that of lithium ion.

            Perhaps enough for some uses, but challenging for most cars.

        • _huayra_ 9 days ago
          > We've tried nothing, and we're out of ideas.

          I'm gonna use this line whenever my pro-car cheems mindset [0] family complain about new bike lanes getting installed :D

          [0] https://normielisation.substack.com/p/cheems-mindset

          • klabb3 9 days ago
            Let me guess, they're against bike lanes while simultaneously complaining about too much traffic?
            • _huayra_ 9 days ago
              Indeed, and god forbid separate bike paths / infrastructure. The main complaint is that bikes don't pay tax / registration, but usually after I get them to agree that vehicles should pay in proportion to the damage (and commensurate repair costs) they inflict on the infrastructure and then show them this chart [0], they usually end up just resorting to insulting my "libtard values" or something. Cubic functions are not something I think they remember from school...

              [0] https://streets.mn/2016/07/07/chart-of-the-day-vehicle-weigh...

              • klabb3 9 days ago
                That's hilarious (and sad), thanks for sharing. IIRC driving a 9 ton big rig is a constitutional right.
    • hibikir 9 days ago
      I'd much prefer that high density world myself, but this is a complicated problem. Rezoning as to make denser building possible, and even preferable by most people, would be great. But limiting ourselves for that solution isn't going to be enough.

      Many American cities could be 1/4th of the size they currently are while still being full of single family residential + townhouses. We could be even denser if we wanted to. It'd, however, make the current homes of 3/4ths of the homeowners basically worthless. The world might be a lot better if the latest ring of single family exurbs didn't exist, but it does, and people are not going to be happy to abandon their new houses. Do we give people their money back from their now unsellable houses? Are we happy with the fact that the lucky winners that are the real targets of rezoning becoming very rich, as their land is now going to house more the families than before? How many construction workers, and construction materials, are we going to get to increase our homebuilding speed by orders of magnitude? That's a lot of materials in exchange for abandoned houses.

      In practice, a change like this has to take 30-40 years minimum, and we sure shouldn't we waiting that long with gas cars. It's not a case of true solutions and false solutions: The problem is large enough that we'll have to apply many solutions at once.

    • gpm 9 days ago
      Eh, we're always going to need a fair number of vehicles as a society in an industrial and commercial capacity. EVs are by far the best solution for those vehicles. I don't think it's fair to call them a false solution, they're just not a solution to all our problems, only some of them.

      They're also a huge financial enabler for us scaling our battery production, and the grid scale battery technology that is resulting is hugely useful in terms of transitioning away from fossil fuel electricity production.

      • sbaiddn 9 days ago
        "EVs are by far the best solution for those vehicles."

        Thats not obvious to me. Why is that the case?

        What are the assumptions in your assertion?

        are you assuming continuous innovations in mtls science?

        Are you assuming a certain electrical grid and generstion mix that may or may not exist?

        For example, large ships certainly fall under "commercial" vehicles, but any electrical energy storage (even inexistent ones) would be hard pressed to compete on CO2 emissions with our current grid make up. 50% thermal efficiency is really good!

        Well the same can be said about tractor trailers. Their engines aren't 50% efficient, but they're pretty darned good! Id be surprised if an EV drivetrain can beat them on CO2 emissions.

        And if ships and trucks diesel engines are made to run NG (LNG tankers already do) Forget it. EV's are a CO2 environmental disaster by comparison.

        So, again, what are your assumptions?

        • ZeroGravitas 9 days ago
          Cargo ships can use batteries.

          See: Rapid battery cost declines accelerate the prospects of all-electric interregional container shipping

          https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-022-01065-y

          > Modeling 5 to 10 GWh electrified containerships, researchers find that 40% of routes today could be electrified in an economically viable manner, before considering environmental costs.

          Electric Semi trucks are already happening.

          • sbaiddn 9 days ago
            I never argued that some researcher hasnt tried it out. I argued that electric ships and semis are not good solutions. Certainly not with the current grid.

            The reason is straightforward, the grid has a certain thermal efficiency, one that ships basically match and semis approach.

            • ZeroGravitas 9 days ago
              I'm not sure what specific grid you are talking about, but yeah, we should decarbonise our grids too. That's happening.

              Almost certainly already better in most of the world, and anyway if you're building ship charging stations you can buy new renewable PPAs at the same time to supply power.

        • adrianN 9 days ago
          The obvious assumption in an all-ev-future is that the grid is carbon neutral.
          • sbaiddn 9 days ago
            Is that assumption viable?
            • adrianN 9 days ago
              Of course it is.
              • sbaiddn 9 days ago
                "Obvious assumption"

                "Of course it is"

                "Of course it is" is not science. It might pass muster in CS, but in engineering with heavy objects "of course it <>" is the mother of all f-ups.

                • adrianN 9 days ago
                  HN is not Science or Nature. There is no need to provide in-depth citations to counter shallow dismissals. The best I can offer is a "most experts agree that carbon neutral grids are both feasible and desirable".
                  • sbaiddn 9 days ago
                    Funny thing about HN - until 6 months ago, I was working alongside them at the DOE and had been since 2008 or 2013 (depending if you include grad grants or not) developing electrochemical cells to significantly curtail CO2 emissions from the grid. I have said experts personal cell phone numbers.
                    • adrianN 9 days ago
                      Cool, then you can ask them and post their answers.
      • socialismisok 9 days ago
        They aren't a solution to transportation at large. They are a solution to some issues, of course.
    • great_tankard 9 days ago
      Yes. I've often wondered about how previous generations got certain things so wrong, but this is the first time I've been fully aware of a revolution taking place right under my nose and I feel mostly powerless to do anything about it.

      Even if mining all of the lithium and copper weren't such a disastrously extractive and exploitative process, big personal steel boxes would still be an awful mode of transportation for most people. Our insistence on building infrastructure such that cars are the only truly viable method of getting around diminishes my enthusiasm about what is otherwise amazing technological progress.

    • bottlepalm 9 days ago
      False solution? Why because mining isn't being done responsibly in some part of the world?

      You could say the same thing about literally anything as no supply chain is perfect. But if there's a problem somewhere, like with mining, you zero in and fix it. The fact that a problem exists doesn't invalidate the entire system.

      First principles approach - there's no shortage of materials in the crust, no shortage of energy from the sun, and no problem with cars. Your argument is that they're 'unscalable' well they don't need to be because the population will soon be declining.

    • scythe 9 days ago
      The cornerstone of all public transit systems is the bus. Only the densest parts of major cities can put a train line near everyone. The electrification of buses has only just begun, but the advantages of electric buses are significant: there are no jerky gear shifts; there is no near-field diesel exhaust; there is potentially a longer vehicle lifetime; there is a reduction in the exposure of transit budgets to fuel price swings and consequent debt financing.
    • peter422 9 days ago
      I think the current assumption that every electrical car needs to have 300+ mile range is going to eventually break and stop this false line of thinking.

      In the future there will be a variety of cheaper EVs with shorter ranges which will both lower demand for battery resources while also achieving climate change goals.

      Car batteries will also undoubtedly be critical parts of the electrical grid in 5-10 years, so they'll be doing double duty.

      • olyjohn 9 days ago
        There already are cheaper EVs with shorter ranges. They have been around for years.

        * Nissan Leaf * Fiat 500e * Honda E * Ford Focus EV * VW Golf e-something * BMW i3

        These are all fine cars that get you from A->B as well as any of the $100,000+ EVs that seems to be all over the road. They all have ranges that will get 95% of the population to work.

    • ekianjo 9 days ago
      Larger portions of the planet? Humans activities actually cover very little land overall, and also most of what we do is just scratching the surface of the crust. The planet is much bigger than what you see with your eyes.
    • ajross 9 days ago
      That seems 100% backwards to me. The industry required for electric VEHICLES is largely independent of their implementation as passenger cars. The battery industry right now is, indeed, being driven by FAANG employees' insatiable demand for Teslas. But it's going to be available for buses and freight and everything else too. But getting investment in infrastructure only works well if there are high margins, which means that you have to sell the Teslas first.

      But pretending that somehow we don't need a giant lithium battery industry because we'll just eliminate vehicles of all kinds seems horrifyingly wrong.

      • socialismisok 9 days ago
        Moving freight by truck the way we do is wildly inefficient. We should be slamming our hands on the table for electrified freight rail, with trucks being a last mile (or in some cases, using rail spurs to warehouses like we used to).
        • Ekaros 9 days ago
          Actually trucks are quite balanced solution. We could for example have them use many times more smaller cars... With increased costs and worse fuel efficiency.
        • dmitriid 9 days ago
          And then you have the problem of freight trains competing with passenger trains for the same track.
          • socialismisok 9 days ago
            In some corridors, that's true. But we currently have rail companies that fight tooth and nail to prevent passenger rail from existing.

            Personally, I'd love to see the post office running freight rail for the country, investing in electrification of rail, and focusing on moving as much freight as possible by train.

            • dmitriid 8 days ago
              It's the opposite problem in Sweden. Priority is given to passenger trains and freigh suffers. They are locked in to decisions made decades ago (for example, single not double tracks in most places) and expanding the tracks is extremely costly and extremely slow (the bane of any modern development).
      • aeharding 9 days ago
        We already have electric powered busses, and they don’t have dirty and heavy batteries. It’s called a trolley bus.
        • quickthrower2 9 days ago
          Streetcars are not as versatile. They are mainly for inner city. And changing routes will be expensive.
    • lm28469 9 days ago
      Nah bro you're wrong, I swear to god this is the last time we do that, we'll find a solution _in the future_ (maybe) /s
    • fny 9 days ago
      Did everyone forget about hybrid vehicles so quickly?
    • dieselgate 9 days ago
      You said it very well. I’ve personally found biodiesel to be the best stopgap solution for relying on a car - ymmv
  • jillesvangurp 9 days ago
    No need to worry, plenty of lithium exists elsewhere and is already being actively mined. Until a few years ago, lithium was a by product of other types of mining that would be discarded as it did not have a huge market. That obviously changed in the last decade or so and there are now lots of companies looking all over the world for lithium deposits. And they are finding them too. And some of those new deposits are being mined already.

    Lithium is a fairly common element. It's not a rare earth. Extracting it and processing it are energy and water intensive processes and mining of itself also has issues with pollution. So doing that in the Andes where water is scarce, is indeed problematic. This is also a reason that some areas are hesitant with giving permits for lithium mining. Nevertheless, there are new mines in Nevada, Texas, Canada, Cornwall, Australia, and other places that are starting to ramp up.

    The sentiment in this thread seems to be a bit weirdly anti car and even pro ICE cars. However, this is not the show stopper that some ICE car fanatics want you to believe it is. If only they applied the same outrage against burning oil, fracking, oil spills, damage done by oil refineries, oil drilling in senstive ecosystems, and all the rest. The damage lithium mining does pales in comparison to that.

    This is just a minor growing pains for an exponentially growing industry that is going from almost no volume ten years ago to shipping tens of millions of vehicles as well as grid storage, home storage, and other batteries. Anything with wheels is going to stop burning stuff and start using lithium. And close 100% of that lithium can be recycled when the battery eventually reaches its end of life.

    Lithium ion and other batteries are part of the solution to the problems caused by burning oil. The solution is not advertising we all turn ourselves into Luddites. Good luck advertising it; but I have no confidence that you'll move the needle in a way that matters. Batteries on the other hand are succeeding where generations of hippies have failed to even slow down the growth at which the problem was accelerating. ICE cars are now legacy vehicles and the transition to EVs is well under way. Thanks to lithium ion batteries.

    • user3939382 9 days ago
      IMHO we should never be having a conversation about gas vs electric vehicles without discussing the sources (and future thereof) of the power grid energy charging these cars. Otherwise we run the risk of, for example, EVs laundering the output of the coal industry.
      • eloff 9 days ago
        These are two separate problems that can be solved concurrently.

        The future here looks bright. On the frontpage of HN today is an article on Ars Technica saying the cost of installing and operating new solar power farms is dropping below the operating costs for existing gas power plants, nevermind coal. It's not directly comparable because you'd need to add energy storage to be truly equivalent. Still, it's very promising. I have no doubt that we will solve these problems this century.

      • the_duke 9 days ago
        The well to wheel efficiency is still better for EVs, even if they are powered by coal , significantly better if powered by gas, and much , much better when powered by renewables.

        So EVs are better in all circumstances, and enable continuous improvements by using more renewables.

        The existence of more EVs also creates the incentive to build out renewables.

        These big shifts never happen in isolation, they need to happen in lockstep.

        • lm28469 9 days ago
          > The well to wheel efficiency is still better for EVs

          You're still displacing 2+ tonnes of metal to move your 70kg ass. Using the word "efficiency" in this scenario is an insult to intelligence

      • jillesvangurp 9 days ago
        This nonsense and a lazy argument that used to be popular before Putin finally made a really convincing argument that coal and gas are stupidly expensive. It's not a hard argument to make these days. Just look at your monthly energy bills. The few coal plants still operating were rapidly reducing in numbers even before the Ukrainian crisis.

        A lot of EV chargers of course use solar panels and other renewable energy sources for the simple reason that that's just the cheapest way to charge an EV. And even if somehow you do charge using coal produced energy because you live in a place that forces you to buy from your local coal burning energy monopolists, you are using fossil fuels at much more efficient rate than an ICE car. So, it's dirty and expensive but a lot less dirty and expensive than an ICE car.

        If you think about it coal energy is expensive. That's why lots of coal plants are being shut down. They are no longer cost effective and there are cheaper ways of generating energy. If you are in the business of using lots of energy (e.g. because you charge electrical cars), you are going to buy the cheapest energy you can get. Hint: coal/gas/nuclear energy are an absolute last resort in this market.

        In fact people that own EVs tend to also invest in solar + batteries in their home. Those people are using 100% clean energy and save a lot of money. Many companies with EVs in their fleet do the same thing.

    • comfypotato 9 days ago
      I’m intrigued by the recycling process of lithium. You need to take batteries to special drop off locations to have them recycled, no? I wonder if there will be a financial incentive that coexists with device design policies to make this process easier to execute for the lazy consumer. Would be nice if my phone battery had a built-in $20.00 deposit (this is my opinion of course).
      • jillesvangurp 9 days ago
        Lithium is a very valuable commodity and it is present in extremely dense quantities in used up batteries. It's probably cheaper to recycle it than to extract it from very low concentration brines or deposits in nature.

        Recycling is not a problem but a huge business opportunity; which is why there are a lot of very big investments in this space happening. There are going to be a massive amount of used up batteries in a few decades full of valuable materials that can be extracted and sold at a profit. Anyone that can figure out how to recycle them cost effectively will be making a lot of profit.

        Seriously, nobody is going to dump EV batteries in a landfill; that would be extremely stupid (and illegal in most civilized places). And if people somehow did this anyway, companies would popup to mine those landfills. Because why would you leave batteries in the ground that are contain tens/hundreds of dollars worth of raw materials? That's not going to be a thing.

        A dead EV battery is actually worth more than most second/third hand ICE cars changing hands for a few hundred/thousand dollars. And those are recycled as well eventually. Including their lead acid batteries which in comparison are almost worthless. Just look up the kilo price of lithium. It's around 70$ currently. Lead is worth a bit under 2$/kg. Yet lead battery recycling is very successful. Scrap pricing for lead batteries is around 50 cents per kilo and recycling them is a profitable business.

        A Tesla has around 12kg of lithium as well as few other valuable materials (depending on the model). So, the raw materials in a dead Tesla battery is worth at least 840$ (just the lithium). So when it dies, you don't trash it but you sell it to the highest bidder. Even if that price comes down a bit eventually, it's still going to be lucrative. There is not going to be a shortage of demand for lithium for the foreseeable future. It's a growth market that will keep on growing for a few decades.

        • comfypotato 9 days ago
          Fascinating. Thanks for the informative reply. I extend my wonderings to "where is consumer lithium"? My surface-level dive makes it seem like an individual might have a maximum of 500 grams of lithium outside of their EV. Seems like EVs will be above and beyond the highest concentration of lithium to the point that we need not worry too much about other sources (at least not until the EV recycling system is thoroughly settled.)
        • lm28469 9 days ago
          > Seriously, nobody is going to dump EV batteries in a landfill; that would be extremely stupid (and illegal in most civilized places).

          I mean we ship our old electronics to Africa where they burn them in open air dumps to retrieve the metal, it wouldn't be the first time we're being lied to about "recycling"

  • elihu 9 days ago
    > "But every ton of lithium carbonate extracted from underground using this cheap, low-tech method typically dissipates into the air about half a million gallons of water that is vital to the arid high Andes. The extraction lowers water tables, and because freshwater often sits on top of salty water, this has the potential to dry up the lakes, wetlands, springs, and rivers that flourish where the underground water reaches the surface."

    What's the cost of importing 500,000 gallons of water to replace what evaporates? If the miners had to pay that cost, would it still be economical for them to sell that ton of lithium carbonate?

    The first result in Google says lithium carbonate costs $17,000 per ton in 2021. It might be more now.

    This fluid-hauling train car has a capacity of around 30,000 gallons:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOT-111_tank_car

    So, about 16 train cars worth of water for $17,000 worth of lithium. Not sure if that's a good trade or not. It might depend on how far they have to go for the water. (Maybe sea water would be good enough, if the ground water they're removing is already brine, then maybe adding more salt isn't a problem.)

    • WmyEE0UsWAwC2i 9 days ago
      What about taking the ore to sea level and doing the process there. It's downhill.

      This is the greatest flaw in markets. It's said that markets compute the right values for trade goods. But it should be qualified to: Value now (or in the short term).

      In any specific moment value has certain dispersion due to multiple factors. The uncertainty of value in the future is huge because those factors compound.

      My point is that I believe markes only work in the short term. For long term planning (~one huamn lifetime, a civilization life time) markets don't work.

      • legutierr 9 days ago
        Markets are a function of the political regimes within which they operate. They depend on the existence of money, freedom of movement, reasonable taxation, and private property—and a certain level of protection from theft and violence—all of which are features a well-functioning state.

        Often markets also depend on standardization and regulation that can only be enforced by governments.

        If the markets that exist today fail to take into consideration the true societal costs of their operation—if there is no accounting for future costs—that is not a failure of markets in general, but of the current political regime.

        • WmyEE0UsWAwC2i 9 days ago
          You make an interesting point but the same problem is now on the hands of the political regime(hopefully a wide segment of society) to decide the value of things.
      • CompelTechnic 9 days ago
        The way the lithium brine is extracted from the ground is by pumping water down, allowing the lithium brine to dissolve in the water, and pumping it back to the surface.
      • pirate787 9 days ago
        Markets are shaped by the cultural, institutional, and legal frameworks. Markets reflect these values
    • sbaiddn 9 days ago
      And whats the fuel required to haul 30 000 gallon trains of water up 5000 meters ? I estimate 170L per train car just to go up the hill. So about 2500 l just to go up the hill.

      Or for every ton of lithium requires two tons of diesel just to replace the water. I assumed 100% thermal efficiency, so probably double that.

      And where is the water coming from? You need fresh water, adding salt to brine just adds salt to the area.

      And now you still have to make a battery out of the stuff

    • Gibbon1 9 days ago
      > What's the cost of importing 500,000 gallons of water to replace what evaporates?

      Freedom unit warning.

      1 gal of water weights 8.33lbs. Andes are about 12,000 feet up. So 500,000 gallons would take about 50,000,000,000 ft-lbs.

      2.655 million ft-lbs/kwh.

      So about 18.8 kwh.

      • elihu 8 days ago
        That's actually not nearly as bad as I expected, though it assumes perfectly efficient energy use. 18.8 kwh to obtain enough lithium carbonate to make batteries for maybe a hundred cars? That seems like a pretty good deal, if the water itself is available at sea level. (If sea water is good enough and doesn't create additional environmental concerns, then it's basically free.)

        I can't help but think there must be a math error somewhere, since the result would imply that it should be approximately possible for a Nissan Leaf to pull a train of over a dozen fluid-containing cars from sea level to 12,000 feet on a single charge. That doesn't seem right, but I don't see anything wrong with the math so maybe my intuition is just wrong.

      • kwhitefoot 9 days ago
        So why aren't you using Btu?
        • midoridensha 9 days ago
          He's talking about using electricity to move water, and the US measures electricity in kW-h like everyplace in the world, as far as I know.
        • cromulent 9 days ago
          undefined
  • ErikVandeWater 9 days ago
    Cars aren't the solution to the future of transportation. Walkable cities and quality public transit between them is.
    • bombcar 9 days ago
      I've noticed a great increase in the /r/fuckcars sentiments (probably can be traced back to some popular YouTubers or something) - setting "cars vs public transit" as the fight is only going to result in public transit losing, and hard.

      Cars are just too insanely cheap and convenient at what they do.

      • onlyrealcuzzo 9 days ago
        Because 20% of your taxes goes to funding roads and 50% of your city is pavement.

        Some people would prefer it to be different.

      • dagurp 9 days ago
        I wouldn't dismiss this as only the view of the extremists at fuckcars. There's plenty of other subreddits that aren't anti-car but share the sentiment that more density and proper public transport is crucial.
        • bombcar 9 days ago
          There's a wide gap between "we should design cities better and include public transportation" and "electric cars are evil and all cars should be banned".

          Even in the 'best case scenario' of the US entirely mobilizing to electrify and nationalize all rail lines we'd be looking at a minimum 10 year maybe much more effort, and during that time reducing the amount of gas usage is good, whether it be by hybrids or electric cars or something else.

          • dagurp 9 days ago
            Indeed. We should be doing both
        • SyzygistSix 9 days ago
          I would. I live in a progressive town that is great for cycling both weather-wise and road-wise. Among the childless, woke 20-some and 30-some, of which there are a lot, walking and cycling could not be less popular. It has only gotten worse in the last 20 years. Likely for the same reason dietary, consumer choices, and political engagement have not reflected what seems to be popular opinion; because people actually value convenience and entertainment much more.
    • anonporridge 9 days ago
      An underrated negative of heavy car culture, is that it is likely one of the key reasons Americans are so fat and unhealthy relative to most other western countries.

      Cars are death machines, not just because of the high energy collisions, but because they kill us slowly with inactivity and obesity.

      • silisili 9 days ago
        I agree that walking is good for you...but...our diet is much, much, much more to blame than our cars.

        A couple cans of coke are more calories than you'll spend walking through a city.

    • missedthecue 9 days ago
      Great idea but not going to work. Even in Japan, ~70% of households own a car. They serve a vital component of transportation that is not easily substituted for.
      • Fezzik 9 days ago
        Ownership and use are two totally different things though. I lived with a wealthy family in Hamburg and they owned 2 cars and a vacation home in Southern Germany… and they seldom drove except to the house in the South (sometimes) and, maybe, once a month for a big grocery run. The kids rode bikes to school, the couple took the U-Bahn to work. I saw the same things in Spain and Switzerland. Obviously these are just anecdotes, but the fact is that the super-majority of developed countries do a much better job at creating infrastructure to avoid car-use than the US. I would wager Japan is similar. I quick google search tells me the average Japanese car owner drives about 3,700 miles vs the average American driving over 13,000 miles a year.
        • nicbou 9 days ago
          Yep. I own a car and a fuel tank ladts 2-3 months. Berlin has great public transportation and is quite bikeable.
        • personalidea 9 days ago
          I would like to add to that, that this is not true for the country side. At least in Germany. Public transport is pretty much non existent there, e.g. (anecdotal) a part of my family lives in a village with ~4000 inhabitants. To get to the next bigger city there is one bus that goes in the morning and one that goes back in the afternoon. That is it. If you want to go to dinner or visit someone after that, you need a car or go by bike 15km one way.
      • socialismisok 9 days ago
        Japan has a car to household ratio of 1.06, compared to America's 1.88 average per household.

        South Korea has even fewer. Let's set the first goal at one car per household, and supplement everything beyond that with transit and electric bikes.

        • missedthecue 9 days ago
          US is clearly the outlier in automobile dependency, no argument there.
        • SyzygistSix 9 days ago
          Electric bikes are more akin to scooters and mopeds. A quick look at Asian cities and comparing them to Copenhagen and Amsterdam shows the difference between the two. Riding old-fashioned bicycles would do most Americans some much needed good.
          • socialismisok 8 days ago
            Electric bikes still require pedaling and have been demonstrated to be aerobic exercise. If Americans rode e bikes everywhere, we'd have a huge improvement in health.
        • sbaiddn 9 days ago
          One car per family is doable, even in the US. We did it for a while and then got ourselves a Golf.

          Even after we moved to the suburbs, and the Golf was in the shop (deer) for a month (supply chain), it wasnt so bad.

          The secret?

          My other car is a 7 seater SUV with a 3.3L V6 that can tow 5000 lb. Its big enough that it can do anything I might need it to do.

          Getting the golf, ironically, lowered our fuel consumption because the golf can do 70% of what we'd use the SUV for. But, because of that remaining 30%, I'm keeping the SUV.

          So its not obvious that simply lowering average numbers of cars per household improves anything.

          Btw, replacing my Golf with an F150 hybrid would probably lower my fuel usage.

        • TrapLord_Rhodo 9 days ago
          What does car per household have to do with anything? I can have 12 cars and never drive, one car and be on the road 24/7.
          • socialismisok 9 days ago
            A drop in the average to one car per household implies a significant reduction in the number of cars on the road. Right now, it's not uncommon to have two family members commute by car every day.

            Yes, there will always be outliers, but I care about the average case.

            • TrapLord_Rhodo 8 days ago
              if you don't care about outliers, then don't quote data that does. Outliers are everything, and without them being stripped the data is meaningless.

              I would venture to say there is a higher correlation between wealth to cars, than driving to cars. I would futher venture that if you have 4+ cars, you do less driving than the average person who only has one car per household.

              I have 17 Tesla's that i rent out on Eturo. I work remotely in downtown chicago and i literally never drive.

              • socialismisok 8 days ago
                You are arguing with a strawman. I don't care about any individual. Your business might own 17 cars, fine.

                But like, the world in which the average cars per household is 1.0 is one where there are a lot fewer cars on the road. I'm not sure why that's controversial to you?

        • afarrell 9 days ago
          What are the means by which a team of 150 can make progress over two years towards that goal?

          Such a team can work on improving EC technology. It cannot meaningfully make progress on reconfiguring a city like Houston or Los Angeles or San Francisco.

          • socialismisok 9 days ago
            Look at Google's Environmental Insight Explorer. I'm sure that's less than 150 people and it's doing incredible work to help cities with legislation, transportation, and energy. https://insights.sustainability.google/
          • adrianN 9 days ago
            Were I live there is a dire need for planners in city offices that do the paper work for opening bike lanes and improving public transport. I think there are only a dozen or two for the whole city. 150 people doing that absolutely would make a difference.
            • afarrell 8 days ago
              I stand corrected. It would be good to make things like this more widely known.
      • _huayra_ 9 days ago
        Why not both?

        Many folks on here have hobbies that just are not public-transit friendly, e.g. windsurfing for me. However, I would love it if I didn't have to drive between my urban area and an adjacent one because of the dearth of public transit options (besides the even worse option of teensy flights).

      • midoridensha 9 days ago
        Tons of people in Japan own cars and don't drive them very much; they're for weekend trips to the mountains, going to Costco, etc., not for going to work every day. 1/3 of the population lives in the greater Tokyo metro area, and there simply isn't very much parking anywhere in the city. But single-family houses usually have a tiny garage underneath.
      • lm28469 9 days ago
        > Even in Japan, ~70% of households own a car.

        I'd recommend looking up the average japanese car vs the average american car

    • cscurmudgeon 9 days ago
      Walkable cities imply high density cities.

      Unfortunately, that will never happen.

      E.g., in the SF Bay Area NIMBYism is rampant and the density is laughable for such a vital geographic area. If walkable cities are not possible in the hyper-progressive futuristic Bay Area, where is it possible in the US?

      https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/09/opinion/democrats-blue-st...

      • Etheryte 9 days ago
        Walkable cities are already a reality in many countries in Europe. It's not rocket science and it doesn't mean you need high density. See Denmark, Netherlands etc for a few examples. Humane cities are a matter of choice, just because it doesn't exist in the US doesn't mean it's impossible.
        • prottog 9 days ago
          > Humane cities are a matter of choice

          The choice to have founded your city a thousand years before the invention of the automobile, maybe.

          Many European cities that were rebuilt after destruction during WW2 were built in a more automobile-centric manner, because people enjoy cars.

          Honestly, I would like to see someone start a new city in the US around the concept of walkability. There's so much empty land in this country, and with remote jobs there's less of a need to place a city next to existing employment centers. It would be an interesting experiment, if nothing else.

          • socialismisok 9 days ago
            You know that we took our cities and ripped them apart to install stroads and highways, right? That the historical model of American cities was train based, spreading radially out from a port with folks riding trains into work? And we threw that away in favor of cats relatively recently?

            We can choose to upzone and convert large road corridors into rail plus some road and convert some roads to bus rapid transit and some to bikes.

            It's an eminently solvable problem and one that has been solved over and over again in the modern era.

            • prottog 9 days ago
              > We can choose to upzone

              You'll hear no arguments from me. Even the biggest cities in this country are laughably low density.

              > convert some roads to bus rapid transit and some to bikes

              I don't know, I used to live in one of those big cities that had an awful commute by car, with congested roads and expensive parking when you could even find one. Solo drivers still comprised the plurality of commuters, and that number only went up during my time there, despite many efforts at improving public transit.

              People just don't like public transit for some reason, even when the alternative is pretty shitty. I don't imagine that it's gotten any more popular in this year, with higher rates of crime and other antisocial behavior on public transit around the country.

              > one that has been solved over and over again in the modern era

              Are there really good examples of cities anywhere around the world that were previously automobile-centric that became public transit-centric?

              • socialismisok 9 days ago
                I'm of the opinion that people don't like public transit because we half fund it. So they look at it and are like, "no, why would I want more like that?"

                But like, a cleaner, faster, more frequent, less crowded transit? Yes please!

                Cities like Oslo, Philadelphia, Boulder, and Seattle are experiencing huge transit changes right now and seeing major increases in bike and transit ridership. Boulder, in particular, dramatically reduced single occupancy transportation.

                • Tade0 9 days ago
                  More frequent is usually quite the problem because while the vehicles are just a matter of cost, the staff isn't.

                  Driving any large vehicle is a stressful job and there's always a shortage of people willing to do it.

                  Of course this implies that the larger the vehicle the better, so rail comes to mind, but that it turn requires infrastructure.

                  Overall it's a hard problem to solve.

                  Then how did the Europeans manage to do it? They had to. There's literally no other option for a region that doesn't have abundant oil resources.

            • midoridensha 9 days ago
              >That the historical model of American cities was train based, spreading radially out from a port with folks riding trains into work? And we threw that away in favor of cats relatively recently?

              This is quite false, unfortunately. It seems like cats have fallen out of favor in America, and now everyone is getting a dog.

              • socialismisok 9 days ago
                Hahaha, curse typing on my phone!
                • readthenotes1 8 days ago
                  I thought it was an intentional metaphor, coming from the "herding cats" line of thought.
        • voidfunc 9 days ago
          You need to stop playing Sim City, walkable cities are a fantasy in the US. You need broad political support to basically redesign every city outside NYC and some parts of SF, Seattle, and Boston. It will never happen.
          • munk-a 9 days ago
            There is a constant stubborn push back of "it's impossible" while time after time different parts of the world have proven it is in fact possible. The biggest impediment to walkable cities in the US is the broken political system that makes bipartisan efforts exceedingly rare. If a politician of one party advocates for it everyone on the other side needs to throw out bullshit arguments as to why it's dumb.
            • bilkow 9 days ago
              I'd even argue that the only reason it currently is hard to do it in many parts of the world is just because people believe it's impossible. You need general population support to make changes.
              • SyzygistSix 9 days ago
                People believe it is impossible even when the evidence is right in front of them in the form of others walking and cycling. It most definitely is an issue of social will more than anything.
          • socialismisok 9 days ago
            It's not only been done in cities all over the world, it's very much currently in progress in many places. Seattle is expanding rail, removing single family zoning, and building higher density while expanding transit. It maybe takes a decade or two, but it's extremely doable.
            • coryrc 9 days ago
              Over 80% of Seattle housing land is SFH. The "expanded rail" runs to non-walkable suburbs instead of filling out Seattle. Pretend we believed there was a climate crisis and decided to stop all cars. At our current rate of transit increase and our current population increase, I think we're at centuries before we'd even have the capacity.

              https://www.theurbanist.org/2018/06/01/correct-percentage-si...

              • socialismisok 9 days ago
                0% of Seattle is zoned exclusively single family housing. Everywhere it's legal to build more than one unit per lot.

                And the trains have absolutely resulted in both increased density and upzoning.

                Greenwood and Phinney ridge are both "suburban" but totally walkable.

                All we need to do is properly fund transit. It's not hard, it's just not cheap.

                • coryrc 7 days ago
                  I would not consider something you can't sell separately (ADU) a "unit", which would make me disagree with your second sentence.

                  The light rail doesn't go to Phinney or Greenwood, but I meant Lynnwood, Shoreline, etc stops.

                  It's not just "not cheap", it's ruinously more costly than cars. Housing just isn't dense enough to bake it affordable.

        • cscurmudgeon 8 days ago
          Walkable without density => walkable only for the rich

          Would love to see Europe with US levels of diversity and population still remain "walkable" without density

          Most European "cities" are what would be a suburb/village in the US.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_cities

          The US has tons of walkable suburbs and villages.

      • socialismisok 9 days ago
        Walkable does not imply high density. I've lived in areas that are suburban + townhouses that are totally walkable.

        Were there some 5 over 1s in the commercial areas? Sure. Is that high density? Hardly.

      • labster 9 days ago
        Yeah, no one lives in high density cities any more, they’re too crowded.
      • SyzygistSix 9 days ago
        Exactly. Until people in the US develop the political will for change, technologically driven improvement in cars is the best way to reduce the damage.
    • SyzygistSix 9 days ago
      There is no one solution. Phrasing the prolem that way makes no sense. Cars, trucks, and independent wheeled vehicles will have a place for a long time to come. Electrifying cars and trucks is a huge improvement.

      Summoning the political and social will to replace car-centric infrastructure is a different problem, one even so-called progressives are not interested in adopting, at least for themselves.

  • thread_id 9 days ago
    Classic example of a hidden economic and social cost of a technology that is not born by the final end use of the products - in this case storage of electricity for many applications.
  • syassami 9 days ago
    I've been following this company as a potential replacement to the evaporative pond method: https://lilacsolutions.com/technology/
    • DavidPiper 9 days ago
      Disclaimer: I am significantly financially invested in Lilac's success.

      I really do think this kind of technology is the way forward for Lithium extraction. Total water return, no ponds, no evap, tiny footprint. Even if it's not Lilac, someone will solve this for the timescale we need to extract Lithium before recycling becomes common.

      Hard rock is a very different story to brine of course.

  • aortega 9 days ago
    EVs are just marketing, they not much more efficient than gas cars, it just moves the energy source from fossil fuels to...well, nuclear at best, or centralized fossil fuel generators at worst. You are not fixing global warming with EV cars.

    A small, dirty, gas moped is way more efficient, cheaper and green than the greenest EV car.

    The real revolution is electric bicycles, unsurprisingly one of the most popular means of transportation in China. I saw an excellent graph that I can't find at the moment, which shows that a human on a bicycle is 10 times more efficient than the most efficient biological locomotion known (that of fish).

    • fsh 9 days ago
      Small IEC mopeds are hideously inefficient. They consume merely 2 or 3 times less fuel than a modern IEC car, despite being an order of magnitude lighter and much slower. Also they emit way more pollutants and are extremely noisy.
    • afarrell 9 days ago
      Large problems need to be solved in pieces if they are to be solved at all. Anything else is boiling the ocean.
  • mark336 9 days ago
    The governments of Chile and Bolivia afe now far-left. I wonder what their stance is on extractive industries?
    • aeyes 9 days ago
      In Chile the stance hasn't changed much with the new government, some tweaks are being made to take more profits through additional taxes/royalties but for now that's about it. In the last decade several laws have passed which require mining operations to use less water and use renewable energy for their operation.

      Touching mining would be suicide, it's 20% of the GDP. Chile is the most advanced country in South America because of mining, just like the oil countries.

      We better take that money while it lasts and invest it wisely.

      The proposed constitution could have been a big blow to the sector, for now it didn't get approved so we will have to see what happens in the future. This uncertainty isn't good for foreign investment, we can only hope that the government gets their act together.

      By the way, I would argue that copper mining is far more destructive than Lithium mining.

      • 29athrowaway 9 days ago
        They new government is trying to reform the constitution. Everything else to them is secondary.

        With the new constitution they can effectively kill separation of powers, checks and balances, etc. and install a far-left dictatorship.

        • aeyes 9 days ago
          We voted against the proposed new constitution in a referendum. It is unclear what will happen next, most likely a new draft will be proposed and we don't know which ideas from the old proposal will make it over. For now you can safely forget anything you heard about the new constitution, this text is no longer relevant.
          • 29athrowaway 9 days ago
            Agreed, but the new government is still pushing for constitutional reform.
    • eunos 9 days ago
      Chile govt is AOC lite
      • socialismisok 9 days ago
        So... Kinda center left?

        AOC isn't really that left. She's left compared to the Democratic party, but I don't think she's that extreme.

  • yuan43 9 days ago
    > Lithium is the lightest of all metals. Soft and malleable with a high capacity to store energy, it is ideal material to make lightweight, rechargeable batteries. Demand for the metal for lithium-ion batteries to power mobile devices has risen strongly for three decades. But while mobile-phone batteries require just a tenth of an ounce of lithium carbonate, a typical electric-car battery requires 130 pounds — around 20,000 times as much.

    Without a radical breakthrough in batteries, electric cars are not the answer. They are every bit the problem that ICE cars are, it's just that the full environmental costs of the switchover have not been widely-recognized.

    • msbarnett 9 days ago
      > They are every bit the problem that ICE cars are, it's just that the full environmental costs of the switchover have not been widely-recognized.

      I think you’re confusing an environmental catastrophe with devastating consequences for specific people (and animals etc) in a contained location with a completely uncontained environmental catastrophe with devastating consequences for all life on this planet.

      Just reducing cars’ impact to “devastating a number of specific contained locales” would be a monumental step forward.

      • wyldberry 9 days ago
        The funny thing about devastating a local population of flora/fauna is that it has wide ranging ripples that we are often unable to anticipate.

        Saving the world by consuming more (vehicles, electronics) etc is not going to work. Eventually we will fall inline with the Nash Equilibrium as well.

      • o_1 9 days ago
        What if cutting the rainforest down and killing all the whales stopped climate change? It's "just localized" so it will benefit us all in the long run. Let's replace ICE engines with something responsible and feasible. Hydrogen fuel cells can't be ruled out, there is still ground to be gained.
        • wolfram74 9 days ago
          Having worked in a fuel cell lab, and remembering when the gas companies were toting fuel cell's as the red herring back in the aughts I find it very funny that we're still holding off on electrifying cars for the hope that fuel cells might finally start to be even remotely useful for personal transport.

          If you want to make an argument at the grid scale, go ahead, but hydrogen's just too big a pain in the butt to work with.

          • aaronblohowiak 9 days ago
            If I were king we’d go to methane and overbuild solar to get there. But I’m not king (yet.)
        • ben-schaaf 9 days ago
          If that would have stopped climate change it would have been done decades ago. Cutting down rainforests and hunting animals to extinction is something we've been doing for a very long time.
    • bottlepalm 9 days ago
      Mines will open as demand goes up. No shortage of lithium whatsoever. No technical breakthrough needed. The batteries we have today are good enough. There is plenty of opportunity to mine cleaner and more responsibly, but that's just a policy issue. Not insurmountable.
      • lm28469 9 days ago
        Do you know the impact of mines ?

        Do you think they use lemon juice and electric excavators ? No, they go though thousands and thousands of tonnes of dirt to get grams of valuable metal while pumping shit tonnes of chemicals in the ground. All the byproducts are then stored in tailing dams which have the annoying tendency to leak or straight up break

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tailings_dam

        • bottlepalm 8 days ago
          There are two options - don't mine, or mine responsibly. One of those options isn't realistic, so it's really only one option.

          It's also the primary concern of the linked article, 'lax regulation', not necessarily mining itself.

    • markdown 9 days ago
      > typical electric-car battery requires 130 pounds

      Are these batteries recyclable in perpetuity or does lithium degrade?

      • wolfram74 9 days ago
        ... It's an element? Do you mean are there losses/leaks in the recycle/process/usage loop?
        • socialismisok 9 days ago
          Depending on chemistry, it could be that pulling the elemental lithium back out of battery chemistry could be costly, energy intensive, or polluting.
          • simondotau 9 days ago
            Redwood Materials is currently recycling lithium batteries and getting a return rate above 80% on lithium and over 95% on nickel, cobalt and copper. Their processses, even at this very small scale, are less costly and less energy intensive than raw materials mining. And of course far less destructive to ecosystems.

            And this is early days. These are already fantastic numbers but it is highly probable that innovation and scaling will improve them still further.

            It's particularly exciting to see rare metals like cobalt so highly recyclable. As newer batteries require much less cobalt than older batteries, the need for virgin cobalt mining could be slashed or eliminated within a decade or two.

            • socialismisok 9 days ago
              Neat! 20% loss is still pretty significant, but here's hoping they improve over time.
              • simondotau 9 days ago
                It's interesting to note that the lead acid batteries in ICE cars are among the most (possibly the most) fully recycled products. A large percentage of them make their way back to recyclers at end-of-life and when they do, they are fairly highly recyclable. New lead acid batteries are made of up to 80% recycled material.

                Glass and aluminium are also extremely recyclable, but a huge amount of post-consumer glass and aluminium still ends up in landfill. Whereas the logistics, economics and supply chain of lead acid batteries makes them ideal for recycling. And I'd expect EV batteries to comfortably surpass this high bar given how difficult it would be for an EV battery to somehow make it into landfill.

        • markdown 9 days ago
          I mean, petrol is almost all carbon (an element), but you don't get to capture it from the exhaust and reuse the damned thing.

          Let me reword that for you... how practical/sustainable is it to recycle lithium car batteries? Will there be a point where we can stop all lithium mining because there will be enough in in use and available for recycling?

  • daniel-cussen 9 days ago
    Not really. There's a lot up there, the demand is just now scraping the top of the barrel, in Chile for one, there's many many salt flats and huge lithium deposits. Lithium deposits, despite intense interest in exploitation overseas, is met with the 1981 law prohibiting lithium mining because it's a nuclear munition. As though you can't get more than enough from batteries by this point, that's a law that is pure corruption, like totally. Yes lithium is part of the Hydrogen Bomb and increases the yield enormously, and yes it comes from the Altiplano (Chile Bolivia and Perú, and to a lesser extent Argentina) but that never stopped anybody from getting it. Metals are all present everywhere, the only question is that of concentration. For iron and copper and others, concentration determines economic returns almost single-handedly, and it's a huge problem for copper right now in Chile, Chuquicamata gets .73% concentration. So North Korea and Israel didn't seek good concentrations internationally, they didn't go to Olympic Dam in Australia for their uranium--this part I'm divining--rather they mined it at a lower concentration within the country. You don't want to ship this, and in fact there are Geiger counters and suchlike in docks, in New York for one, placed to stop nuclear munitions from being shipped. It's pretty easy to detect. In that case secrecy means local deposits are viable and international deposits are not. So at any rate there is some lithium available for countries locally, now there's lithium mining in Australia like rock mining, which is worse than salt flats by far. Very doubtful America could ever impede other nuclear powers from obtaining lithium in quantities for a bomb. Perhaps once, not now that lithium is in every device and that lithium can not only travel on planes--despite putting airplanes at risk--but it can reach every country. Every country has smartphones, every country has lithium. Every country can improve the yield of a hydrogen bomb.

    So really the minute smartphones became commonplace, Chile should have repealed the 1981 lithium law. It did not. It did not because of corruption, in fact Soquimich was investigated as a company listed in the NYSE for corruption, and frankly they were guilty as fuck. For ages they monopolized lithium, only now that there is rock mining and Bolivia and Perú are determined to produce it themselves, Chilean bribes be damned, is there real competition. And the market is rapidly expanding, the monopoly made sense when demand was small, like when lubricants and medication were important uses[1], but now that it's a huge percentage of every modern car's weight, what the hell! So Soquimich "asked" the Nuclear Commission of Chile (whatever it's called in English, there's no ambiguity there is one and that's it) if it could expand production dramatically. Well that's what they said. Soquimich owns not only that office thoroughly (very prolific campaign contributors with bribes underneath, as determined by I think DOJ, in a way that being brought to light won't change because there's pitiful campaign contributions otherwise, there is loyalty, they have power beyond just influence due to the owner being Pinochet's son-in-law), but many many others, but now there is that magical thing that capitalism brings, which makes it actually work, which is competition! Particularly from rock mining. Lithium has gone so far up that rock mining is no longer expensive in such a way that it can be ruined by a retaliatory and temporary increase in production by Soquimich, which was the game plan, basically Saudi Arabia of lithium. Saudi Arabia did do that. Although the also allowed all kinds of countries into OPEC, basically allowing a quota based on proven reserves and that was all there was to it. Not strictly, but pretty much. It used to be predatory pricing essentially. Well I by this point forgive them somewhat because they are producing much more, they are competing, they are no longer a tight monopoly doing pretty harmful things, they are in principle interested in ecology (it's in their best interest to be). And further there is one thing worse than a monopoly, which is nothingness. Not a single producer. That exists, the market for selling algorithms is that, no buyers and no sellers, so no market. Nothingness. One seller is much better than no seller, and lithium prices didn't hinder laptops and smartphones all that much, they did produce more many times, and they never owned a total monopoly, I think the majority or maybe 40%--very dominant--but not that much. And plus it used to be worth dick, nobody used lithium for anything, nothing, it was a terrible business to be in for decades, like lubricant and medication and nuclear ordnance, and none of them used lithium in real volume (the hydrogen bomb yes, I don't know I would say hundreds of kilograms per bomb since I can't realistically know exactly not declassified, not a whole lot of Museums of the History of Nuclear Weapons). So really it was a pretty tough racket for even a monopoly, they didn't make real money for many decades, they in practice needed to monopolize supply--no matter who extracted it in the Andes, they had to monopolize it, no choice. Or they would compete to terribly low prices, and one or both would have to drop out of the market. Reserves were a bit greater than now, market was tiny, totally marginal element with no applications. Even today it's all just the single application of batteries, little else.

    So ecology. Lithium buyers want ecology. Whether Soquimich likes it or not (and they're not pure evil they did some shit they got caught they're paying for it a bit, they lost their monopoly, now they compete), but part of the job is selling lithium and for that being ecological is mandatory. Wouldn't want to get a "conflict lithium" designation, that harms business. And it costs little, not a big polluter. I went to the biggest Chilean salt flat, I saw the lithium extraction like pumping down deep into the salt flat, but I saw all this in a tourist destination meant to look at the pink flamingos feeding on shrimp in the salt flat. That is pretty much all the life there is there, shrimp and flamingos. The flamingos were chilling, not afraid of the pump truck, and they were there to eat shrimp, so the shrimp clearly weren't being very prejudiced. That was it, there's no flora of any kind there, not right there nearby there's like dots in the ground some seasons, like nothing. There might be other birds sometimes. I would remember the tourist destination talking about other species, it was really just two...I suppose there was phytoplankton for the shrimp to eat. The tourist destination was really just about the flamingos, which are incredible, and they become pink from eating shrimp, but again if the lithium extraction fucked their life up they would not go within miles of a pump truck like that one. So ecological, and really, lithium extraction opens doors in every government office near a salt flat. Want to get permission to extract lithium, it's easy, "knock knock" "who's there" "lithium" "lithium who" "lithium who pays taxes" boom you're in. Municipal governments want money not to be such a problem, they want a budget, they want to get the wealth in their environment, and by this point it's basically a gold rush, even in Chile. And there is lots. That part of the Andes is the low-cost producer of lithium by a very wide margin, can't even mention a single salt flat worth anything outside that region. These days, lithium is green energy, it's the new oil.

    [1] Interesting fact, lithium commodity exports and bipolar medication are the same molecule: lithium carbonate. If you're bipolar in the traditional sense and run out of lithium carbonate pills while near lithium extraction, you can either end up streaking naked through the salt flat--which happens--or ask the extractor for a sample of their commodity, which being a sample will be pretty pure, and deal with bipolarity like that. It's the only example of a commodity that is at the same time medication that I know of. I joke about Chilean lithium, that before like 2020 you shouldn't touch lithium carbonate eve if you were diagnosed bipolar, it's even crazier. It did badly for a very long time, the monopoly and 1981 law were very strong.

  • thweoiru234 9 days ago
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  • newsclues 9 days ago
    Are the Taliban sitting on boat leads of the stuff?

    Why didn’t the American build a railroad to the ocean!?