Graphite May Scuttle Ride Out for Li-Ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles

Lithium-ion electric car batteries may prove to be the latest not-so-great alternative. And not just for reasons of cost. They have been sold to the public as a “clean” technology — but that only applies if you don’t factor in the emissions created during their manufacture, say experts in the EV field.

Explaining their claim, a senior analyst said, “One of the materials essential to the making of electric car batteries is graphite, a highly conductive material used to make EV electrodes. Graphite is the soft form of carbon (diamonds being the hard form) and it must either mined or made. Both ways result in the thing battery-powered cars are supposed to prevent — carbon-dioxide emissions.”

Naturally occurring graphite must be pried from the earth using heavy industrial equipment that isn’t generally powered by clean wind farms or solar panels but rather by machinery powered by enormous (and emissions-uncontrolled) diesel-burning internal combustion engines, he added.

No surprise, most of the graphite mined and processed for use in electric car batteries is mined and processed in China, where it’s still legal to spew effluvia (not just carbon dioxide) into the air in quantities that haven’t been legal to spew in the United States since the 1970s which amounts to relocating emissions, not reducing them, he further stated.

Synthetic graphite is preferred for EV batteries because of its higher purity but it is even more environmentally obnoxious. It is a byproduct of coal tar — or petroleum coke — baked at 2,800 degrees Celsius in electrically fired furnaces that also do not draw the immense power they consume from wind turbines or solar farms but mostly (in China) from coal-fired utility plants.

It’s not generally known, but there is 40 times the amount of graphite in a typical lithium-ion EV battery as there is lithium. A single Tesla S battery itself contains about 200 pounds..

Which is why it is estimated that the demand for graphite will reach more than 250,000 tons by next year — and 1 million tons by 2030 — almost all of this the result of government mandates that are effectively forcing electric cars to be built in large numbers, even though market demand for them is still very small, as well as very artificial.

EVs constitute only about 1 percent of the number of cars on the road,  and most of those are on the roads only because of generous government subsidies to the buyer (via tax credits and free electricity at government charging stations) that serve as inducements to buy them.

But this artificially induced demand for electric cars will also drive up the price of electric cars because of the artificially increased demand for graphite, which has already increased by more than 25 percent over the past year. Another irony of all of this is the wastefulness of all of this. In order to make electric cars more appealing — in order to take people’s minds off their higher cost, lower range and long recharge times — electric cars (especially Tesla electric cars) have been marketed as high-performance cars that accelerate to ludicrous speeds, extremely quickly. But it takes power to achieve ludicrous speed — and that means bigger batteries, more graphite, higher cost and thus more carbon dioxide, the experts said

 

 

Other Renewables | News published on 12/12/2019 by Ashish Wagh

 
 
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