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Are Electric Vehicles a Green Disaster?

Questioning the Environmental Credibility of EVs

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As LA start-up X Mobility Motors is set to release a range of electric-powered mobility devices including motorcycles, an international report has thrown doubt on the environmental credibility of EVs.

X Mobility Motors has revealed the brat-styled T1 e-motorcycle and T2 scrambler in teaser photographs but no other details such as technology or pricing are yet released.

Company spokeswoman Gabriela Wiggers says the motorcycles, along with a scooter, skateboard and e-bike are now available for “pre-order” with launch to follow in November.

This comes as international electric products researcher IDTechEx reveals that the magnetic materials used in electric vehicles are causing both a dependency on China and a potential environmental disaster.

It claims in its report “Materials for Electric Vehicles 2020-2030” that 80% of the world’s EVs have kilograms of magnetic materials typically made with rare-earth materials such as neodymium and dysprosium which are mostly mined in China, allowing the country to set prices and control the market.

IDTechEx also points out that the ores that rare-earths are extracted from are often laced with radioactive materials such as thorium.

“Separating the materials requires huge amounts of carcinogenic compounds like sulphate, ammonia and hydrochloric acid,” IDTechEx says in its report.

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“Processing one tonne of rare-earths can produce up to 2000 tonnes of toxic waste.”

Many manufacturers are now replacing magnetic motors with copper windings or other technologies.

However, companies such as Tesla, the worldwide leading producer of EVs, are moving from copper windings to permanent magnet-based motors that have a better range.

The Harley-Davidson LiveWire also uses a permanent-magnet motor and other motorcycle manufacturers such as BMW and Yamaha are working on similarly powered electric bikes.

IDTechEx’s report says even though these motors have less magnetic material, there has been an increased shift towards these motors which also increases the mining of rare earth materials.

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It’s not the only environmental concern with EVs.

While many extol the virtues of EVs which have zero emissions when in use, there is also the issue of how the power is generated to charge them.

For example, China is the largest user of electric vehicles and still has a heavy dependence on coal-fired power plants as in Australia.

And then there are the issues of battery disposal …