OPINION: Growing production of electric vehicles faces a short circuit ahead

An electric vehicle with a dying battery. Photo courtesy of Getty Images. 

Automotive companies – like Ford and General Motors – have charmed investors and consumers with their adroit technological innovation, flamboyant electric vehicle (EV) designs, and lofty investments. However, they lack the most important thing: batteries to power the EV storm. The current EV battery shortage is only an appetizer to the chaos that will soon ensue. 

General Motors seeks to sell one million electric vehicles in 2025. Ford seeks to sell two million electric vehicles in 2026. Biden seeks to have half of all new cars sold to be electric by 2030. These goals are not possible, considering that 90 to 95 percent of the supply chain does not exist to fulfill these targets. 

In order to establish the nation’s energy independence and attain the objectives that the government and many companies promised, alternatives to lithium batteries need to be found. 

The shortage of lithium-ion batteries – which fuel EVs – stems from a lack of mining operations and the difficulty of entering the mining market. It takes about three years to make a lithium battery plant, then up to ten years to bring the mining project to fruition, and on top of that a couple of years to create facilities to extract the concentrate. This extensive process slows down the race for this precious silver metal. 

Despite the arduous process it takes to create lithium mining facilities, efforts to do so have been seen across the globe. In Serbia, the largest proposed lithium mine in Europe was put to the side following growing environmental concerns. In the United States, the greatest lithium deposit has been challenged due to its location on Native American land. EVs are praised for the good they bring, yet their creation is causing harm – to the environment and to the people. 

Considering the immense time, energy, and money it will take to create the mining operations, is it really worth it? Looking at the number of companies jumping to mine lithium, it seems like it is. However, to truly know the answer, an emphasis on alternatives to lithium-ion batteries must be placed, which can only be done with investments in the research and development of alternatives. 

Looking ahead, the CATL energy storage company has shown promising results with a sodium-ion battery. While sodium does not store as much energy as lithium, it is both inexpensive and readily available. With a lower price tag than lithium, sodium-ion batteries have enticed manufacturers and investors. 

As alternatives to lithium-ion batteries are discovered, the demand for EVs will be successfully filled. Not only will this contribute to a greener future, but it also has major implications for national security according to Biden. With his Defence Production Act last month, the government will invest $750 million into battery material mining with the intention of establishing energy independence. This act sends an important message to the American people – that green energy is a major priority for the country. 

Reaching this ideal point of energy independence and sufficient EV supply will require a journey through the rocky road of material shortages and outdated technology. However, embarking on this journey will be worth it. 

Annika Srivastava is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

Leave a Reply