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.
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
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?
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 . It also apparently takes 8 kilograms for an EV battery . So 3500 gallons per vehicle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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?
>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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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...
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%, 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.
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 , they usually end up just resorting to insulting my "libtard values" or something. Cubic functions are not something I think they remember from school...
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.
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.
"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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 $20.00 deposit (this is my opinion of course).
Lithium is a very valuable commodity and it is present in extremely dense quantities in used up batteries. It's probably cheaper to recycle it than to extract it from very low concentration brines or deposits in nature.
Recycling is not a problem but a huge business opportunity; which is why there are a lot of very big investments in this space happening. There are going to be a massive amount of used up batteries in a few decades full of valuable materials that can be extracted and sold at a profit. Anyone that can figure out how to recycle them cost effectively will be making a lot of profit.
Seriously, nobody is going to dump EV batteries in a landfill; that would be extremely stupid (and illegal in most civilized places). And if people somehow did this anyway, companies would popup to mine those landfills. Because why would you leave batteries in the ground that are contain tens/hundreds of dollars worth of raw materials? That's not going to be a thing.
A dead EV battery is actually worth more than most second/third hand ICE cars changing hands for a few hundred/thousand dollars. And those are recycled as well eventually. Including their lead acid batteries which in comparison are almost worthless. Just look up the kilo price of lithium. It's around 70$ 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.
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.)
> "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:
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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.
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).
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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, 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.
 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.