Cars have a significant impact on the world, regardless of whether they are electric or gas-powered. The OEMs make grand promises about how EVs will be made and the number of EVs that they will introduce during the transition to electrified society. It’s a common phrase to use the term “carbon-neutral”, and it will make our world much cleaner.
Polestar has announced its first partners in the Polestar0 Project. To ensure climate-neutral production, the automaker has partnered with ZF and SSAB Steel. This is a significant step and, while Polestar may have the best intentions, it needs to make sure that other automakers follow through with their plans. We as consumers need to ensure that they are adhering to climate-based pacts.
The Supply Chain: Links
Vehicles aren’t made in a vacuum. Although automakers make many parts of a car or truck, the majority of the components that go into an automobile are made elsewhere. Suppliers are the backbone to the automotive industry. ZF and Bosch may not be household names as Ford and BMW, but they are vital to the success of automobile manufacturing.
Suppliers can’t either build the parts they need or get them to the factories quickly enough. This is a highly choreographed dance, which requires that parts arrive at the factory at a certain time in order to be distributed when they are needed. You should take the opportunity to visit an automobile factory if you have the chance. It is amazing how fast workers attach the parts to the vehicle.
It also raises an interesting issue. Future factories will be carbon-neutral, according to automakers. The Zwickau factory of Volkswagen is an example of a plant that uses no fossil fuel to run the machines. It’s only one of many facilities that are used to make a vehicle. Although it might seem difficult, suppliers should be doing their best to make sure that they are doing everything right.
The People Have Power
Batteries have their own unique challenges. There are materials that will be required to make all the batteries needed for an EV future. Many people have learned that cobalt mining is fraught with human rights violations. BMW, on the other hand, began sourcing cobalt from its suppliers and has been involved in the supply chain to ensure that its vehicles are only from reliable sources.
One of the most pressing issues has been battery recycling. A former Tesla executive is trying to ensure that the battery recycling problem of the future doesn’t happen. Redwood Materials announced recently a battery recycling programme in California, with Volvo and Ford being its first partners. Although it is still in its early stages, it is a good start. It will hopefully expand to other states and attract more automotive partners.
“A cleaner, better world requires more than just a soundbite or a photo op…
There is plenty of lithium in the world, which is the main ingredient in lithium-ion batteries. It is important to ensure that we don’t let companies exploit the natural resources they source.
For example, take the Salton Sea in Southern California. It is an ecological disaster. The land, water and economy have been devastated by decades of agricultural runoff from pesticides and other herbicides. People who live in the region have also been affected by all these chemicals. This is what we allowed to happen and everyone has paid the price.
The Salton Sea has lithium. There is lots of lithium. The mining of this material could lead to jobs and help in the transition to EVs. It can also produce clean energy as a side effect. This sounds like the perfect solution to the problem we created. But we must be cautious. It is not a good idea to repeat the unintended consequences from the past. It is our goal to create a cleaner, better world in the future. Don’t Repeat the mistakes of past
Make Decisions with Dollars
Although the current crop is impressive in its own right and very exciting, we are still in the early stages. This is not to say that companies should be indifferent about the environment. That is the whole point behind EVs. CEOs cannot talk on stage about building a better world, but then have their factory violate the Clean Air Act. Or, you can resist rules that would have made cars more fuel-efficient like Toyota, GM and Fiat did in 2019.
We can make sure automakers honour their promises by purchasing from them as an entity. Ask the dealers questions. Do your research before you buy. Pay attention to what companies are doing and not just what they say in press releases.
Better, cleaner world requires more than just a slogan and a photo. It needs to be an industry-wide effort, and all stakeholders must keep their word.