Home Business Electric vehicles promise environmental wins. But could there be environmental costs?

Electric vehicles promise environmental wins. But could there be environmental costs?

by News Desk
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This is the second in a three-part series, The Real Cost of Electric Vehicles, which delves into the future of electric vehicles and how electrification will affect Windsor Essex.the first day we saw affordable pricesTomorrow we will look at the impact on employment in Windsor Essex.

Environmentalist Michael Schneider enjoys the comfort of driving an all-electric Chevrolet Volt.

“No noise at all. That’s the beauty of it,” he said.

“I think you get a better sense of your surroundings because there is obviously no distraction from the engine, and you can enjoy the ride.”

Having worked in the solar panel industry for many years, Schneider is also Chapter President of the Windsor Essex Electric Vehicle Association. He bought his EV for the first time 10 years ago.

“It was an environmentally conscious decision at the time because we had the opportunity to buy a car with a lower carbon footprint,” explained Schneider.

This is attractive to many consumers who want to be environmentally friendly.

Teresa Kramarz teaches in the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of Toronto, with a focus on natural resource governance. (CBC)

The ferocious drive to electrify vehicles in Windsor and Canada promises to be a key component of the country’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

“If we’re not careful, we can do a lot of damage during the transition,” says Teresa Kramartz, an assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Environmental Studies who focuses on natural resource governance.

“I want to be really clear that we have to decarbonize. It is the only unit of analysis for governance issues.”

‘doing the right thing’

The Canadian government wants all new passenger cars sold in the country to be electric by 2035. Many of these vehicles, and the batteries that power them, will be manufactured both at the Windsor assembly plant and at the new Stellantis-LG electric vehicle battery plant, which is expected to be operational by 2024.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a visit to the Windsor assembly plant in mid-January, “When you buy an electric car, when you drive an electric car…you are doing the right thing.

An Alpha Lithium employee works next to a saltwater pool in the Tolillar salt flats in Salta, Argentina, August 13, 2021. Minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel and cobalt are needed to make electric vehicle batteries, one expert said. It may have ecological implications. (Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)

But mining expert Kramarz fears that environmental issues will take a back seat in a “very politically attractive” conversation.

She worries that the critical minerals needed to meet some of the goals set by the government will be sourced from the Southern Hemisphere.

Minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel, and cobalt are needed to make batteries. All of these have social and ecological implications, Kramertz says.

Lithium, in particular, can lead to massive water extraction, which can lead to contamination of water supplies, which can also affect ecosystems and the species that depend on them, she noted.

Canada currently produces no lithium, but produces about 2.5% of the world’s. Known lithium deposits. This is a small share compared to countries such as Bolivia, Australia, Chile and Argentina, not to mention that China dominates the bulk of the world’s processing power.

She also pointed to the example of cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she says 70% of the world’s cobalt comes from. This has been documented by the United Nations as having serious negative impacts, including pollution and destruction of vital ecosystems. As a number of negative social impacts.

Fetching water outside a copper and cobalt mine in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2015. (Aaron Ross/Reuters)

“The urgency of this transition also, in my view, threatens negotiations with affected communities that are in the zone of careful consultation, extraction of the kind that needs to be carried out,” Kramarz said.

Mining to meet demand

A lithium mine operated by Sayona-Québec in La Corne is set to begin production later this year, while Prime Minister Doug Ford is eyeing mining in northern Ontario to meet demand. Kramarz explained that it could take years before it is operational.

“There are 34 of the most important minerals in the north that the whole world wants,” Ford declared at a conference last week.

The Ring of Fire deposits lie more than 500 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. (CBC News)

The Prime Minister has pledged a billion-dollar access road to the Ring of Fire region, a giant mineral reserve about 500 kilometers north of Thunder Bay.

However, northern communities such as the Nescantaga First Nation have objected, fearing that mining in the area would completely change their way of life in order to supply resources for these projects. I’m here. The state says indigenous people are being consulted.

‘You have to see the big picture’

“We need consultation with the First Nations. It’s in their own backyard,” said Teresa Sims, a local elder of the Upper Mohawks of Grand River’s Six Nations Turtle Clan. He is also a cultural and language specialist at Skana He Family Learning Center in Windsor.

“I know this company, this factory will be a lot of work for people [in Windsor]But we have to make sure it’s sustainable,” she said.

Theresa Sims says it's important to consider the big picture, not just the benefits of the end product, when discussing electric vehicles.
Indigenous Elder Teresa Sims says it’s important to consider the big picture, not just the benefits of the end product, when discussing electric vehicles. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

She emphasized that even if electric vehicles help reduce carbon emissions, the overall impact must be considered positive for seven generations into the future.

Stellantis North America Chief Operating Officer Mark Stewart said the company is committed to making the transition responsibly, including how materials are mined.

When asked by the CBC where Sterantis’ minerals are sourced, Stewart said the company sources them around the world, but in “free trade zones throughout North America.”

“We have a dedicated purchasing team working on it from the supply base we already have today and we are working on developing a new supply base, such as new mines being installed and being installed here in Canada. The new infrastructure makes a lot of sense for us and makes a lot of sense for Canada,” he said.

Watch | Teresa Kramarz explains why moving away from fossil fuels is more than just replacing non-fossil fuels.

Important Environmental Considerations by Teresa Kramarz

Environmentalist Teresa Kramarz points out several factors to consider when considering what will enable a sustainable transition away from fossil fuels.

change your relationship with your environment

Schneider admitted he has concerns about the manufacturing process for electric vehicles.

“There is an impact on mining, but there is also development going on in the battery sector. Hopefully in the next few years we will be able to produce batteries with less environmental impact from the manufacturing process.?” he said. Said.

“No one wants to harm the environment, especially if they are doing net-zero operations, so I’m sure they are working on that too, right?”

If scheduled to open next March, the La Cornet mine in Quebec will be one of the only functioning lithium mines in North America. (Sayonna Quebec)

Kramarz also questioned how EV battery recycling will be handled in the future, noting that battery critical minerals are “one of the least regulated aspects of environmental impact. “One,” she explains.

She also stressed that replacing all internal combustion engines with electric vehicles would not solve the problem.

“I often hear them say, ‘Do we really need Teslas in every driveway? Is this really the solution to the crisis we created?’ And I don’t think so.”

Kramarz said it would be useful to consider approaches such as sprawling urban growth and making cities more walkable.

“We have to have a fundamentally different relationship with the environment.”

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