À contresens- the wrong way- Are electric cars not so green?

Electric cars are increasingly regarded as an interesting option to lower greenhouse emissions and curb pollution, especially in cities. There is often criticism, however, around a number of critical issues that would make electric vehicles not such a “green” option.

1- Some critics say that electric cars contain a number of rare earth metals whose extraction and processing are intensive in terms of energy demanded and use of chemicals. Furthermore, rare earth elements are mostly provided by China, making it a sensitive geopolitical topic. Other main ingredients in the electric car recipe include lithium, and cobalt, whose extraction also give concerns in terms of their environmental and social impact.

2- Related to the previous point, some critics say that batteries – the main component of electric cars- is not recycled and therefore we would be contributing to generating a large volume of polluting high tech wastes.

3- Where does the electricity for recharging electric cars come from? In countries that still rely on fossil fuels (such as Germany with coal) an important question is wether it is really a greener option to use electricity instead of gasoline?

A Swiss documentary addresses the way these topics are being framed by media and in the public opinion. What they found is that these criticisms are largely unwarranted or at least exaggerated. The team fully dismantled an electric car along with a conventional one, and found no traces of rare earth in the electric ones while they did find them in the catalyzer of the fuel one. Besides, they went to Congo to find that accusations of child labour in cobalt mines are only a marginal part of the story, whereas in Chile they discovered that Lithium production is not so polluting as portrayed. Eventually, the documentary makes the viewer ask the question of: why do I know what I know? Why do conventional and social media give so much attention to negative stories in order to throw bad light on electric cars without questioning conventional ones?

You can watch their trailer below (french only for the moment), and you can find here a list of their sources.




Leave a Reply