Extraction of metals for electric cars causes a lot of pollution

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 August, 2017, 3:37pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 August, 2017, 11:13pm

I refer to your editorial (“Electric cars key to a clean, green future”, August 16).

Electric cars are not as good as they seem and the Hong Kong government has a lot to do to manage their growth.

Firstly, cars are not totally electric; in Hong Kong, they are primarily coal-fired cars as burning fossil fuel is the prime source of electricity used to charge them.

The average lithium ion battery is typically made of 7,000 or so cells and weighs over 60kg and uses nickel, cobalt and manganese among other materials. The extraction of these metals is highly polluting and there is a shortage of ethically sourced metals such as cobalt, which is primarily sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A Swedish study has estimated that the production of an average 100kW battery produces 17.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of over eight years of emissions from a conventional car.

What will happen at the end of the batteries’ life? I have talked to Tesla in Hong Kong and they advise they have no programme in place for the disposal or recycling of batteries at the end of their life.

The Hong Kong government has no programme in place. This is not as simple as the recycling of lead acid batteries which is safe, easy and widespread.

Lithium batteries pose a safety threat as they contain flammable electrolytes.

The ones in cars are not that dissimilar to those in phones and they are known to burst into flames. The size of car batteries poses an even greater threat.

There is no regulation in place to license repair workshops or to establish training programmes for repairers of electric vehicles. Cars are high voltage and high powered and are a threat to the workshop environment and mechanics if not properly handled.

The government will, in due course, have to look at the tax effects of the increase in electric car usage.

Will a new tax need to be introduced on electricity used for charging, to compensate for the loss of revenue from fuel taxes? If that is the case, legislation may have to be introduced to stop people from charging from other electricity supplies and also to ensure safety.

Yes, there is a great future for electric cars but there are many issues to be considered.

Ian A. Skeggs, Tsim Sha Tsui