One of the bigger knocks against hybrid and electric vehicles is that while they don't directly produce much in the way of harmful emissions (if they make any at all), the process of building their electric motors and batteries can be very, very bad for the environment. Take graphite, for example. It's an essential ingredient in lithium-ion battery packs, like the one shown above in the back of a Toyota Prius Plug-In. According to Bloomberg, the average hybrid car uses about 22 pounds of graphite, and pure EVs like the Tesla Model S require about 110 pounds.

Graphite mining and processing is particularly bad for the environment. In China, one of the world's leading graphite producers, the effects of the so-called "graphite rain" – a silver dust that falls from the skies in areas around the mines – along with the hydrochloric-acid-infused waste water from processing are reportedly rapidly poisoning the environments around the mines. This has led China to slash production, closing a number of mines.

Bloomberg has an excellent piece on the environmental effects of graphite, as well as the impact of China's move on the global price of the material, the latter of which is expected to impact the future pricing of electric vehicles. Hop over to the site and have a look.


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  • 136 Comments
      BipDBo
      • 9 Months Ago
      I'm so glad I don't live in China. I know that it's a big country and that it is different depending on where you are, but reading stories like this, and seeing pictures of big city smog makes it seems like the whole country is Mordor.
      SublimeKnight
      • 9 Months Ago
      Ban pencils!!! I've been saying for years the SATs are secret CIA plot to pollute China.
        Leather Bear
        • 9 Months Ago
        @SublimeKnight
        They can have my #2 Ticonderoga when they pry it out of my cold, dead hands!
      mapoftazifosho
      • 9 Months Ago
      Meanwhile automakers are aware of these things and are taking steps to design batteries that aren't as harmful. We're still in the early stages of development for this type of powertain. When the automobile and internal combustion engine were just starting out...things weren't exactly clean...and to this day still aren't. And this isn't necessarily an issue with all hybrids, but with China (which has 95% of the rare earth metals). Let's not forget there is basically zero environmental standards in China... I'd like to see Bloomberg do a report on how our exportation of coal to China is bad for their environment. (25% of our coal exports go to China...)
      lasertekk
      • 9 Months Ago
      Chemical waste from any of mankind's industrial processes is a given, and has been for a century and a half. So is our ability to separate it, reuse it, process it and ultimately dispose of it. We have plenty of experience in it. It's an empty argument that the chemical waste from the one specific application of EV production is causing any kind of issue.
        lasertekk
        • 9 Months Ago
        @lasertekk
        AB, your posting system is broken...and it needs an EDIT button
      Tweaker
      • 9 Months Ago
      But do we have to spend hundreds of billion$ every year protecting the supply lines?
        CoolWaters
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Tweaker
        Exactly. Aircraft carriers in the Middle East are NOT FREE.
      Agustin
      • 9 Months Ago
      because the chipper mining procedure. lack of regulation.
      Design1stCode2nd
      • 9 Months Ago
      If the tech giants can hurry up with the Matrix already we can just jack in instead of driving to work. Save billions and save the environment
      burgerjoint
      • 9 Months Ago
      Ironic. Given China's utter disregard for human and animal life, this would be the least of their problems. No, the truth is, China is reducing their rare mineral output to pump up prices. This is NOT about pollution or environmental concerns. This is purely about money. Don't believe me? Do some research on rare earth minerals and China's decision to reduce output. (Although graphite is not rare, I'm grouping it in with other minerals) Also, graphite mining can be performed in many safe and less impacting ways as they do in here Canada--- China simply refuses to do them because again, money.
      Luc K
      • 9 Months Ago
      How about iPhones and other smartphones? According to article it contains decent amount and multiply that with millions of produced smart phones.
      Kelly Erin O'Brien
      • 9 Months Ago
      Sadly, AB Green has been going downhill for a while now. This is just another example of bad research characteristic of poor quality journalism. Too bad... I used to really like AB Green. No longer a point of reference for me.
      mycommentemail
      • 9 Months Ago
      I think the headline should read: "Click Bait: How a lack of regulations in China coupled with naked capitalism is destroying their environment as a result of Americans purchasing ________" In the blanks you may insert: Electronics Clothing Building materials Batteries etc. I know a lot of trolls here are suddenly all concerned about the damage this kind of mining is doing (all the while quiet on drilling, fraking, shipping crude, pollution from buying anything sold at walmart that has been shipped from China, etc) but that isn't the real story here.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 9 Months Ago
      Graphite is not in all batteries and it is not necessary to use it. To be fair, let's throw up some pictures of what tar sands and offshore drilling does to the environment in order to fuel gasoline cars. Follow it up with some picture of Utah's smog during the winter - where an insane amount of refining is happening in a valley which experiences major inversions. I literally racked up $1,200 fighting sinus infections and bronchitis last winter due to it. That does not include the cost of work that i lost due to being extremely sick. As soon as the inversion cleared, my health returned 100%.
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