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Electric Cars and Their Environmental Impact

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Albany chapter.

The popularity of electric cars as the more ecofriendly product has grown throughout the years, but the production of these cars is questionable. Companies like Tesla, Toyota, BMW, and more, advertise their cars as milestones to a cleaner more sustainable future.


“Having my Tesla is better in every way, it’s faster and cheaper. Yeah it was an investment, but it’s nice to wake up to a full charge every morning,” Luke McLaughlin owns a Tesla Model X, “It’s ideal for the short commuter and doesn’t need much maintenance, but when it does, it’s by no means cheap.”


Engineers and Scientists are constantly looking for alternative ways to resource energy without burning fossil fuels or emitting smog.


“We like to look for silver bullets to whatever problem we’ve got. The approach is doomed to failure,” Professor George H. Shaw, Ph.D.


Recently retired from Union College, Dr. Shaw wrote three books discussing issues and solutions around the electric car industry. Through his book, “Navigating the Energy Maze,” he explains what electric cars are made of.


Rare earth metal that aren’t widely needed in natural gas vehicles like copper, lithium and neodymium. All used in constructing the batteries for electric cars.


China currently produces 89% of these rare earth materials. The other percentage comes from an Australian company called Lynas, who manufactures their goods from Malaysia, but there are issues with what the plant is generating.


“One of the byproducts of manufacturing and processing rare oars is slightly radioactive sludge. Now suddenly 10% of the world supply could conceivably go away. Not a lot of effort has been put into finding and developing rare earth resources.”


These materials are already limited in supply due to them being using in our everyday technology, but electric cars demand a substantial amount of mostly lithium and neodymium.

This industry is dependent upon this material being widely available. This would lead to an expansion in mining for the metals.


“If we want to transition to a transportation system that has a lower impact on the atmosphere, a logical direction is to go to electric vehicles. But there’s a problem because you still have to charge them.”

A common misconception for people who own an electric car, is when they are charging, no coal is being burned. The charging stations for electric vehicles are attached to power plants that burn fuel. Not as significant as the fuel burned by a natural gas car, but still giving out emissions.

“The exploration hasn’t been pushed because there was limited use in the past. If we were to use different power sources like wind, solar, more hydro and had a way to distribute the sources… We could reduce a substantial amount of our emissions.”

My name is Daria and I am currently a junior at SUNY Albany. I am studying biology and hope to, one day, become a nurse practitioner.