Troy Bowker's opinion piece "The Dirty Secrets about Electric Vehicles" (NZ Herald, September 7) borders on a work of fantasy.
Bowker takes issue with where battery materials are mined. So he wants to deny poor countries income streams they desperately need to better themselves. The Arab population would still be meandering the deserts in poverty should oil extraction have been limited to rich countries. Let's mine these materials in rich countries only so they can become what, more rich?
There will be sufficient EV industrial capacity across all vehicle types to support banning the internal combustion engine vehicle by 2028.
His erroneous linkage of a child labour issue in the lithium mines of Bolivia is sad. Bolivia does not have any lithium mines to speak of and appears on no lists of lithium-producing countries. Sure, they have large reserves which will get mined. According to Bowker's theory we should lobby not to mine these reserves and leave it to the likes of Australia (the largest producer) to enrich them alone? The price and availability of lithium and Bolivia's relatively low birth rate means the economics to support a child labour industry simply does not exist. There is no hint of child labour being deployed in Chile and Argentina, who are among the top four lithium producers.
Bowker is correct about the child labour issue in the Congo. In that nation, which has one of the world's highest birth rates, child labour is an issue across every facet of their economy. Should the world stop trading with the Congo because of it?
Battery makers are, however, busy developing batteries less reliant on cobalt. As a result of this, and other factors, cobalt prices have plummeted recently (how lucky are the Congolese?)
What Bowker ignores is the devastation that will be wreaked on countries such as the Congo if we do not immediately address the rise and rise of CO2 in the atmosphere. The Congo is set to become unlivable if nothing is done. Who will weep for their children then?
Bowker's assertion that "the only alternative is to bury [lithium batteries] here in New Zealand" is quite frankly ridiculous; and his comment "huge areas of land would need to be converted to graveyards for toxic lithium batteries" is alarmist nonsense.
Lithium batteries are readily recyclable. It is already a growing industry, with Lithium Australia a recent example. The sheer scale of the raw material availability will actually make a viable industry opportunity not requiring public funds. Current battery developments mean this process will become simpler in the future. Kyocera's battery plans are a clear example of this.
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In addition, it is likely vehicle batteries will be directly repurposed for stationary power storage, extending their life beyond eight years, potentially as much as 20. This has huge potential to augment solar and wind generation, reducing the need for massive expenditure in power-generation capacity. This will largely occur "after the meter", improving consumer independence and infrastructure resilience to disasters.
EV batteries are not prone to spontaneous combustion. There are rare cases and continued battery development will reduce this possibility still further over time.
Rather than "consider stopping the importation of EVs immediately", as Bowker suggests, I believe the feebate scheme proposal as it stands does not go far enough. There will be sufficient EV industrial capacity across all vehicle types to support banning the internal combustion engine vehicle by 2028.
The subsidy should be broadened to support an electric-motor conversion industry much like what took place in the 70s with LPG. It will not be good enough to allow our existing fleet to run on well into 2050.
It is idiotic to have any fossil-fuel-driven vehicle supported by a subsidy, which is part of the current proposal.
The subsidy should be a flat rebate to assist the poorer in our community to wean themselves off fossil fuels. We should also include an incentive to remove old clunkers off the road rather than remain in the fleet, spewing CO2 and other noxious chemicals into the air. Deaths related to this problem is another story.
I am looking forward to the day the air in New Zealand is free from the noise and noxious pollutants from fossil-fuel-burning vehicles, whose time is past.
• Michael Kampkes is employed in the building trade and is an opinion writer advocating societal change to combat climate change