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RHS Academy on Green Issues: The Harsh Reality of Electric Vehicles

RHS Academy on Green Issues: The Harsh Reality of Electric Vehicles - 1

Recently, students at The Academy at Rye High School, a project based learning program, looked at a variety of environmental issues. MyRye.com will bring you a few of these projects in the run up to Earth Day on Saturday, April 22nd.

Today, juniors Maggie Kirkpatrick and Liam Moran write about The Harsh Reality of Electric Vehicles.

By RHS juniors Maggie Kirkpatrick and Liam Moran

As presented in the name of the article we plan to inform you, the viewer, on how this misconception of electric cars is marketed towards the everyday person. This common misconception is that electric cars are more environmentally friendly than regular combustion engines. During our research of this topic we discovered that emissions to make the batteries for the cars and properly dispose of them are more than the process of a combustion engine. Throughout the article we will provide more factual information. 

How the process to make the batteries and how it’s are harmful

The production of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) can have negative environmental impacts. One concern is the extraction and processing of raw materials used in batteries, such as lithium, cobalt and nickel. These materials are often mined in countries with lax environmental regulations, and the mining process can lead to pollution and damage to local ecosystems. Additionally, the production of EV batteries requires a significant amount of energy, and this energy is often generated using fossil fuels, which can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, says IOPscience. The transportation of raw materials and finished batteries also has an environmental impact due to the carbon emissions of shipping. Lastly, the disposal of used electric vehicle batteries is a concern, as they contain hazardous materials and must be recycled properly. However, not all countries have the infrastructure or regulations to properly recycle these batteries, leading to potential environmental damage according to ARS. Finally, while electric vehicles have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, the production of their batteries must be carefully managed to minimize negative environmental impact.

Rebuttal to cars emissions

RHS Academy on Green Issues: The Harsh Reality of Electric Vehicles - 2 graphic

The initial carbon footprint offset by electric vehicles ultimately ends up being much greater than that of regular vehicle emissions, according to the NY Times. Lithium-Ion batteries, the main power source of these vehicles are rare metals that are incredibly difficult to access. According to Science Direct, these batteries dominate the market for E.V.’s due to their high energy and power density. As of 2020, Australia accounts for nearly half of the global production of lithium metals. Not only are these metals hard to access, they are also extremely expensive, and incredibly complex. In 2020, the price for a ton of lithium was 5,000 USD. Given the supply constraints and continued demand for electric vehicles, the cost is continuing to increase. The production and disposal process regarding E.V. batteries produces a large amount of greenhouse gasses. For example, it has been said by the MIT Climate Portal, that the Tesla 3 model holds an 80 kWh lithium-ion battery. CO2 emissions for just producing this battery are between 2400-16,000 kg.  Although Electric Vehicles are made to look like they helping the atmosphere, their negative effects on the environment are just as evident, leading to the question of are these vehicles really the future? 

How are the batteries disposed

If Electric Vehicles really are the future, at some point there will be a surplus of old batteries needed to be disposed of. This brings up concerns, have these batteries been being properly disposed of, and if not, how can we change this issue? According to the National Grid, it is expected that most of the batteries powering E.V.’s will live 15-20 years, or 100,000 miles. Once batteries can no longer power vehicles, they have the ability to power other things, like the Amsterdam Arena, which is partly powered by old E.V batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are incredibly complex, which makes it difficult to properly dispose of them without harming the environment. In 2022, it was estimated, according to Princeton, that only 5% of lithium ion batteries were recycled effectively. Companies that want you to buy their cars will always make it look like they are doing the right thing, but a lot of the time they aren’t. Tesla reports say that 100% of batteries are recycled, but the company has been called out regarding this information. According to Vice, Tesla is sending 100% of batteries to be recycled, but who knows if this is really accurate. These false claims are getting more people to buy their vehicles, which are actually harming the environment. 

Closing statements

The future regarding electric vehicles does not look bright, unless there is a change made by companies. Although these vehicles look appealing for the well-being of the environment, they are not sustainable for the long run. Unless companies dedicate a lot of time and money to finding a better way to process and dispose of lithium-ion batteries, they will not be able to reduce carbon emissions. Instead of making a change, electric vehicles are adding to the issue, verifying that if electric vehicle companies do not make a change, they are not sustainable for the future.

Maggie Kirkpatrick is a junior at Rye High School, and a member of the Rye Academy. She loves to read, write, and dance. She takes classes at Brava Dance Center, and is a member of the company team. In her free time she enjoys hanging out with her friends.

Liam Moran is a junior at Rye High School and part of the Rye Academy. He enjoys engineering and history during school. After school he enjoy hanging out with his friends, working out and skiing.



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