Western Battery-Car Adoption Anxiety

The Wall Street Journal ran an article centered on how “western anxiety about Chinese EVs could prove self-defeating,” with a subheadline that summarized the thesis:

The US and Europe risk slowing electric-vehicle adoption by excluding Chinese suppliers from subsidies and raising tariffs

I have a hard time seeing the downside to slowing battery car adoption. Leave aside the tremendous drain that charging all those battery cars (assuming widespread adoption) would have on our already near or at capacity electric power grid and generating capacity for that grid.

Battery cars are tremendously polluting and damaging to our environment, from dirt in the ground to end-of-life battery disposal. Mining the metals—lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, and on and on, metals that are used in far greater quantity in battery cars than in gasoline- diesel- or natural gas-powered vehicles—is extremely damaging, both from the toxicity of the metals themselves and from the toxicity of the tailings from the mining operations.

Processing those metals into battery-car-usable components is intensely energy demanding (have I mentioned the strains on anyone’s electricity grid?).

Disposing of those so-far unrecyclable dead batteries at their end of life is enormously polluting as they leach out of even the most well-kept landfills.

The risk is that the West cuts off its nose to spite its face. Slow down the shift to EVs too much to build local supply chains and give domestic manufacturers time to adapt, and Chinese technology might simply pull farther ahead….


The technologies involved are useful, they should be pursued apace, and the supply chain problems need to be worked for a host of different reasons. However, it’s a Good Thing that battery cars are not being rapidly incorporated into our transportation systems.

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