The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Electric Vehicles:
Human Misery and Environmental Destruction

May 29, 2023

Car manufacturers promote and push electric vehicles on us as zero-emission, environmentally friendly, “green” alternatives to traditional fuel-burning vehicles, as if their profits are not an issue. Such promotions are nothing but deceptive.

To start with, typically, electric vehicles require six times the metal input by weight of current vehicles that run on fossil fuel. So, if manufacturing shifts to electric vehicles, the amount of metal used will substantially increase.

Also, the manufacturing of electric or hybrid vehicles requires many different metals. For example, their frames are made mainly using aluminum, a very lightweight metal that increases the electric vehicle’s travel range before recharging. Aluminum is extracted from bauxite. The world’s most significant bauxite reserves are located in Guinea, one of the world’s poorest countries.

To mine this ore, mining companies are leveling family farms, polluting rivers and seas, and destroying fisheries in Guinea. Partially due to the projected increase in electric vehicle sales, demand for aluminum is expected to jump nearly 40% by 2030. In the next two decades, according to The Washington Post, bauxite mining will destroy more than 200,000 acres of farmland and 1.1 million acres of natural habitat in Guinea — an area almost the size of Delaware. This bauxite mining will unavoidably bring environmental disaster and social misery at a devastating scale. Its human toll will be tremendous.

Other metals used to manufacture electric cars’ batteries, including nickel, lithium, manganese, and cobalt, are also now in high demand. An electric car’s battery weighs approximately 900 pounds.

Like bauxite in Guinea, mining these other metals brings disaster and human misery. In Congo, where the largest cobalt mines are located, a vital part of the mining is done under very primitive conditions, often using child labor, with shovels. In the U.S., companies plan to build huge lithium mines in Oregon and Alaska: some of the few remaining pristine lands in the U.S. will no longer remain intact after such mining.

Electric cars require a much smaller number of parts to manufacture than fuel engine cars. The car manufacturers, therefore, want to achieve their production by decreasing their parts costs and employing fewer workers. Such savings for them mean more profits. Forcing so-called zero-emission cars on consumers through regulations, like in California, further increases the shift toward electric vehicles.

So, every car manufacturer is in this race for profit from electric vehicles that they created. For example, under the so-called “zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion” mantra, General Motors wants to fully electrify all its brands, including Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet, and GMC, by 2035. Globally, auto companies expect that, due to such driving forces, their electric car sales will surpass their fuel-burning counterparts by 2040.

So, within 20 years, the electric car manufacturers, seeking ever-increasing profits with no regard to human and environmental costs, will turn the whole world upside down, killing more land, further poisoning the air, and exacting a tremendous human toll. This profit drive is anything but “green.”