Op Ed: The Fast and The Filthy – Electric Vehicles

Since entering office, one of President Biden’s first new policies has been his electric vehicle initiative, which plans to replace the government’s fleet of vehicles with electric vehicles made in the United States. This decision fulfills both his environmental and “Buy American” plans. The federal government’s transition to EVs, short for electric vehicles, echoes a larger movement among car manufacturers to produce more of them. Ford and General Motors are beginning to invest heavily in electric cars. This recent push for EVs raises the question: is it a good idea that helps the environment? While electric vehicles are currently less polluting than gasoline cars, I would argue that electric powertrains are not the long-term answer.

Electric cars are typically more expensive than gasoline cars, which is less attractive to the consumer. Gasoline-powered cars are still the most convenient form of transportation over electric-powered cars because it takes more time to fully charge the batteries rather than pump gasoline. Electric cars take about 30 minutes to fully charge, but that’s if you have a rapid charger located in a parking lot. Using a regular plug takes much longer. Another problem is that the infrastructure for electric cars is not there. There aren’t enough charging stations to account for a massive shift in ownership. It should be mentioned that the number of charging stations is increasing and President Biden plans to build more, but it’s unclear how long it will take to complete this project. 

The arguments in favor of EVs are true but become problematic once further investigated. The main attraction to electric vehicles is that they’re zero-emission; what’s not zero-emission are the plans that supply the power. If more people switch to electric cars, it would theoretically increase the electricity demand, forcing the creation of more power stations. It may get to a point where our carbon footprint is unchanged because of the many polluting power plants. 

The production of EVs is extremely harmful to the environment because the batteries are lithium-ion, which is common for many other electronics’ batteries. Since these cars have large battery packs, a lot of lithium is needed. To attain this much lithium, companies must strip mine to account for the demand, which is extremely harmful to the environment. At this point, we’re essentially trading fracking, one polluting method of extracting energy, for strip mining, another damaging procedure for accumulating power. While electricity is a renewable resource, lithium is not. We need it for all our other electronics; it could be probable that we will have a lithium shortage if we rely on it too much.

I’m all for cleaner methods of transportation. I suggest that Biden, his administration and all Americans look into hydrogen-powered vehicles. The only waste product for the zero-emission hydrogen power is water. There is no environmentally taxing method of extracting the energy required to run them. Refueling does not take long since you pump hydrogen into the fuel tank, similar to gasoline. I will contend that hydrogen power is a fairly new concept and is a long way off from being commonplace, but I think it is the best alternative  environmentally-friendly vehicle. 

I believe there are better alternatives to electric vehicles. While the debate over our future transportation heats up, I will continue to drive my 2002 Toyota Sienna minivan. 

Thanks for reading, 

Brian Inguanti