Is Transition to a Zero Emissions Future Impossible?

A friend sent me a link to this Video titled The energy transition delusion. It’s a thoughtful look at how we can’t just transition to a zero emissions world. That said, I think the author is wrong but that is because he is only looking at a piece of the transition.

A couple of his big points are:

  • Producing EVs has an impact. He estimates that you have to drive your EV 60,000 miles to “break even” on the pollution created to manufacture it.
  • The earth doesn’t have the resources for all of us to transition to EVs.

If that is all there is to it, that is we all buy a new EV using today’s technology and nothing else changes, he is right. But, that isn’t the total of the plan and things have already changed since his presentation. Let me address a few things he missed.

  1. I see no issue with the 60,000 mile break even point. But, even with current EVs that point will go down as we, for example, recycle old EVs and old EV batteries. An old EV battery is a much richer place to “mine” battery metals than a big hole in the earth.
  2. Copper was his metal of biggest concern. New motors, for example, axial flux motors, use considerably less copper than current motors.
  3. Cobalt was next on his concern list. Well, cobalt-free batteries such as Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) use no cobalt. LFP batteries made today have a higher energy density than batteries using cobalt did only a couple of years ago.
  4. Yes, we could eventually run out of lithium. But, sodium ion batteries have already entered the market.
  5. He is also concerned about the use of rare earth metals. So was Tesla and Tesla will use no rare earth metals in its future motors.
  6. As robotaxis become feasible, there will be lots of cases where it makes no sense to have your own EV.

I think his expression of concern is good. It is something to make us (and manufacturers) to consider the concerns as they move forward. Clearly Tesla is. Clearly other manufacturers need to as well.

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