Well, here's one guy who might not win too many popularity contests around the People's Republic of Berkeley.
A visiting scholar at U.C. Berkeley has published a book that argues that electric vehicles hurt the environment more than they help it and that EVs are more of a marketing symbol than a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Wired reported.

Author Ozzie Zehner, who titled his book "Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism," writes that the production of the copper, aluminum and rare-earth metals required to make an EV and its motor's magnets create more pollution than what would be saved after those cars hit the road, according to the publication.

Zehner, a former General Motors employee, also argues that EV prices aren't likely to fall much further because the technological advances related to their production have already been achieved. The book casts a vote for public-transportation improvements as a better way for governments to help the environment than funding electric-drive technology.

Naturally, people such as author Nick Chambers and Green Car Reports editor John Voelcker took issue with Zehner's arguments, Wired reported. Among other points, both Chambers and Voelcker predicted further substantial drops in battery-pack prices, while Voelcker said that much research is being conducted on using non-rare-earth metals in electric motors, which would further cause the environmental impact of making an EV to drop.


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  • 145 Comments
      PeterScott
      • 2 Years Ago
      Anyone trotting out the "Rare Earth Elements" being used in Electric car motors, is a lying scumbag. We really don't need to Waffle on this. Lets look at Electric cars you can buy. Teslas: AC Induction motors, no REEs Leaf: AC Induction motor, no REEs Volt: AC Induction Motor, no REEs. So where are all the EVs using DC Magnet motors, with REE? How about Old EVs: GM EV-1: AC Induction motor, no REE. Old RAV4EV: AC Induction motor, no REE. Can you spot the pattern yet? So if you see anyone dragging out the REE needed to build EV motors BS, you know they are just a lying sack of excrement trying to sell lies for money. I only did a quick bit of research on each car, but even if there is a mistake in one of the above, it should be pretty damn obvious, that REE are generally not used in EV motors (hybrids are a different story).
        Electron
        • 5 Months Ago
        @PeterScott
        Yet according to to the website of this "Green Illusions" book “Zehner is especially good at untangling sloppy thinking.” according to David Owen, The New Yorker and Author of Green Metropolis. Ah the irony... http://www.greenillusions.org/author-bio/
        Josie
        • 5 Months Ago
        @PeterScott
        Petescott, Your point is correct - you can have perfectly great EVs without rare earth materials. But your facts are wrong. The Leaf motor uses RE materials and both Volt motors use RE materials Tesla, and EV1 are induction. The RAV4 I don't know about, but your "research" is lacking. Facts are important for drawing conclusions. RE make for more efficient motors, plain as day for HEVs or BEVs. Induction and other technologies can do the job also, but slightly less efficiently when and if RE materials are too costly.
          Timo
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Josie
          "RE make for more efficient motors, plain as day for HEVs or BEVs." That's only true for very small RPM range. AC induction is in fact more efficient in normal car usage.
          PeterScott
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Josie
          Josie. Read the bottom of my post. I was researching 5 cars in 5 minutes, I acknowledger there may be mistakes in my quick research. I am not writing a book and I could not find definitive information on each car in minutes. I found things like this for the Leaf: http://www.prognog.com/learning/information/rare-earth-metals-recycling-and-urban-mining.html "Nissan, for example, claims that there are no rare earth metals used in the production of its electric car, the Nissan Leaf." But I couldn't find an actual citation from Nissan.
          EZEE
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Josie
          now now....facts versus emotion....
      PeterScott
      • 2 Years Ago
      Seems like he realized he will make a lot more money being promoted by Fox News than NPR. This is essentially another flavor of the "Hummer is Greener than a Prius" argument.
      Ford Future
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mindless Exaggeration: A review on Amazon. - Some good points, but should shut up about EV and Solar Panel propaganda. - Biking, better community design, rapid transit, sure.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Almost every argument I've seen against EV's has to do with the source of the electricity. Most "analysis" only uses coal power plants as sources for the electricity. But here's the problem. *Not everyone uses coal for electricity* People use solar panels, wind mills. Most of Manitoba uses *hydro electric dams* for electricity, making this one of the 'cleanest' sources around outside of solar and wind.
        icon149
        • 5 Months Ago
        but i think the main point isn't the source of electricity, coal power on a grid is much much cleaner than a bunch of individual ICE's running on gasoline. economies of scale allow production of energy more efficiently, and modern tech much cleaner than ever before. The point the author is trying to make is that the components going into a BEV are much much more detrimental to the environment than a standard ICE, and therefore the pollution you save by not using gas does not offset the pollution generated building it. It's silly to argue about fuel source when the main concern is the raw materials, how they are mined and processed and eventually disposed of at the end of use. Lithium-ion batteries aren't exactly good for the environment. can't just send em to a dump. basically, you start so far in the hole that in the typical life span of the vehicle you can never overcome the pollution disadvantage. But that is with rare earth metals in batteries and valuable metals in motors. ICE's are mostly aluminum and steel (from iron) two of the most plentiful elements on the planet. not to mention easier to dispose of at end of use. Don't get me wrong. I still think it's the right direction to be moving and technological advances will help get us there eventually. sticking to gas and the ICE is shortsighted and dangerous.
          super390
          • 5 Months Ago
          @icon149
          But all cars, regardless of powerplant, are moving to aluminum and composites, which take more energy to process, whether you like it or not. All cars are filling up with computer chips and video screens and beefed-up electrical systems that also have to be manufactured and create pollution. The easy-to-manufacture car is becoming a myth. The critics have to prove that the actually existing cars of 2013 dealer lots didn't take a lot more energy to build, use a lot more foreign parts (the car companies have an incentive to lie about this, and counterfeit Chinese parts are now an incurable virus in the parts business), or have a lot more disposability problems than we're being led to believe. And on top of that, you've forgotten to mention how much electricity is used by oil refineries in producing gasoline, and how many electric cars that could power instead. Because like the car-manufacturing energy data, it's hard to get good numbers on what the refineries use. We are being kept in the dark.
        Spiffster
        • 5 Months Ago
        In the US, coal is now at
      Ford Future
      • 5 Months Ago
      How much oil is shipped "half way around the world"? How much does an oil refinery cost? The Saudi's built one in Texas for 4 Billion Dollars. The right NEVER looks at the oil process.
      Anne
      • 5 Months Ago
      @Spiffster, AFAIK coal declined to 42% already in 2011.
      Marcopolo
      • 5 Months Ago
      Depressing, 71 irate and indignant comments by people who haven't read Ozzie Zehner's book. I don't agree with Ozzie Zehner, but I did read his book. Most of the ABG readers who have reacted so passionately against Ozzie Zehner, would support many of his ideas. Ozzie Zehner, is basically a reductionist. He's opposed to overpopulation, over exploitation, commercial growth, etc. He sees the building of technology of most sorts as unsustainable, as he believes a fundamental change must take place to stop excessive individual consumption. His opposition to EV's is not because he prefers ICE technology! Ozzie Zehner, believes all cars should be banned in favour of public transport. His fear is that if technology provides solutions for energy requirements, we'll just go on multiplying and producing. Ozzie Zehner's, main argument is that EV should be abandoned in favour of bicycles, bicycles abandoned for walking, shoes for sandals, sandals for bare feet, bare feet for.... well, it's safe to say he's got his doubts about the merits of human evolution, and question the whole bit about leaving the trees. Instead of going and joining the Amish ( due the the hard work component), he hangs around Berkley (looking how I imagine Dan F to appear ), annoying the crap out of everyone in hopes of selling his books, and maybe scoring a guest spot on The Big Bang Theory. But, he's certainly not a friend of Glenn Beck, oil companies or the guy's at Fox News!
        PeterScott
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Marcopolo
        It doesn't matter what his goals are. If he is telling the same kind of lies as Limbauhg/Beck to achieve them. If as reported he is making claims about Rare Earths required to make electric motors in EVs, this is a blatant lie. As no maintream EV that I have found uses Rare Earths. The same goes for Aluminium. Where is the Aluminium usage in the Nissan Leaf? How does that compare to your average car with an Aluminium Engine block? If he is telling the same falsehoods we see on Fox news, it doesn't matter if his goals are are diametrically opposed, it is these tactics that need condemnation, not the desired outcomes of using them.
          EZEE
          • 5 Months Ago
          @PeterScott
          Rush Limbaugh Glenn Beck Haliburton starving children corporations!
        Marcopolo
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Marcopolo
        PeterScott & JP, Listen, I don't support Ozzie Zehner's opinions. But perhaps if you actually took the time to read what he actually wrote, instead of only reading what Danny King says, Wired said, about what Ozzie Zehner, wrote, you might not get it so wrong. I don't like, or agree with Ozzie Zehner, but if you are going to burn him as a heretic, at least know what it is you are burning him for ! Some EV technology, does rely on rare earth production.Dysprosium and neodymium are essential to most hybrid technology, and NiMH batteries. The Author also includes Lithium, which while not exactly a rare earth, still needs to be mined along with copper. (Induction motors need copper. ) To the vast general public, there is no distinction between EV technology vehicles, and pure EV's. Danny King's quote is deliberately provocative. Read in the proper context, the authors meaning is totally different. If you accept his mad reductionist reasoning, he is quite correct ! His logic is that all cars are environmentally harmful. It doesn't matter whether EV or hybrid or ICE, the manufacturing process is still harmful ! Now you can disagree with him, but from his viewpoint, no technology is truly green ! You can't agree with reductionism, and but want to keep the things you like !
        JP
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Marcopolo
        Getting a few things correct, the need for population reduction and less consumption, does not give him a pass for getting everything wrong about EV's. He should have stopped when he ran out of knowledge, which he obviously does not possess about EV's.
      Harry
      • 5 Months Ago
      BEV's get their electricity from coal anyway, so no BEV can be clean, they just move the pollution from the tailpipe to the coal burning states. Are you tired of that argument? Well, it turns out, it is no longer true according to the EPA and the EIA. As of last month, natural gas is now passing coal as a percentage of electricity generated. Look at graph ES1A. No kidding. American energy is changing faster than we realize. http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/
        Baldur Norddahl
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Harry
        It is possible to power a car or truck by natural gas directly. It saves CO2 and other emissions. I am not sure why this is not more common. Sure it is less convenient than a fluid such as gasoline or diesel. But trucks and buses should be able to deal with that.
        Ford Future
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Harry
        You can buy 100% wind, now in deregulated markets, like PA, and it's Cheaper then PECO's pricing.
        Ryan
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Harry
        It's also possible to power EVs by solar panels on your house. That is the way I am going to do it.
      george costanza
      • 5 Months Ago
      then 150 degrees and no water and no food is much better...we have 8000000000 humans and counting ******* up resources at breakn()ck speed..something's gotta give. china and brazil with out of control pops razing rainforests damming up our great rivers for 'energy'. fracking ourselves, literally destroying pristine boreal forest for tiny infinitesmal tiny bit of sh*(tty quality 'tar sands' etc is basically where we have ended up, after painting ourselves into a corner. all these wild wacky geoengineering strategies will also come to pass and fail..all GMO crops are a total 100% fail that YOU are paying for. on top of 15% ethanol ruining engines and ******* up energy and in US using the MOST water intensive crop to do it while actual humans literally croak from heat exhaustion and no water. survival of fittest is upon us now...where is new that all wackjobs on right aren't za(Ped up to magic fairy land and are all 'left behind' just like everybody else???? where is some comet when you wackjobs need one right? so yes commiserate about yet somethign else that US cannot control and big oil cannot control to keep some fake monopoly over some resource we should NEVER have used to begin with which is COSTING ALL OF US 1000 times more than r and d to find alternative energy which isn't going to bankrupt the nation like ongoing wars for oil etc. in 2012 makes TOTAL sense...if no elec and no a/c and 120 degrees in WASHINGTON DC doesn't ring alarm bells in denialist politicians' ears. NOTHING WILL!!! REPRIORITIZE...no more lobbyists. term limits campaign finance reform. in 'non news' supremes upheld illegal corporations united..no! who would've imagined them covering their own greedy a89es...giant ******* sound isn't jobs going to mexico. it is our future going down the toilet. due to greed.
      LUKAFOTO
      • 5 Months Ago
      No mention of the destruction to Bolivia's environment due to Lithium mining for LiOn Batts!
        Chris M
        • 5 Months Ago
        @LUKAFOTO
        The Bolivian lithium deposits are a large barren salt flat, all that's needed is to scoop it up and refine it. No drilling, no "fracking", no removing mountain tops, no tunneling - and no endangered species to worry about. There's hardly any "environmental destruction" to worry about, certainly nothing like we get from petroleum or coal.
      P.F. Bruns
      • 5 Months Ago
      He's assuming that we will never ever ever come up with a less expensive, more efficient, more environmentally friendly battery than we have now. Considering how far gas and diesel automobiles have come in the past 100 years, that's a fundamentally flawed assumption. Most of the EV tech that has been developed, even though EVs originated at the same time as gas and diesel powerplants, has occurred in the past 30 years. Thus, Zehner's idea would only work if the next 70 years shows no advances. There's also the tiny fact that every motor ever made technically does some environmental harm, and certainly the early gas and diesel engines did more harm than good when measured by modern pollution standards from manufacture to disposal. Don't buy Zehner's book. Save some trees.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Probably they might, if one goes to excess and replaces healthier options with a luxury car. On the other they also do much more good than bad by replacing family cars with alot more sustainable ones (since Model X can even tow if needed), and also replacing second car with just as fast (at city/commute speeds) electric scooters and pedelecs is a great improvement that is seen more and more even by celebrities (Ed Begley Jr. to Miley Cyrus and so on).
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