In 2017, the Human Rights organisation Amnesty produced a report into cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  It found that there were children as young as seven, working in dangerous conditions. 

Child labour needed for manufacturing electric vehicles

 By Ian Bradford

Cobalt is a vital component of Lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, and of course such things as cell phones.  The DRC produces around 70% of the world’s cobalt. Miners working in the mines face long term health problems including lung disease, and risk fatal accidents. Between Sept 2014 and Dec 2015 it is claimed at least 80 miners had died underground in southern DRC. 

One 14 year old orphan said he started working in the mines at age 12. He spent 24 hours at one stretch underground. His foster father wouldn’t let him go to school and instead exploited him by making him work down the mines. 

UNICEF estimates there are approximately 40,000 children working down the mines in southern DRC. As stated above, Cobalt is a key component of the batteries used in electric vehicles. New Zealand’s Labour government is pushing the sale of electric vehicles (EV). We have a Prime Minster who is supposedly concerned with the welfare of children but is happy to promote electric vehicles with batteries containing cobalt mined by young children, who frequently die in the mines.  

 Some of the Problems Facing EV Owners

  • The cost of EV’s will not allow many people to drive one. On average, you will pay $15,000 more for an EV over an internal combustion vehicle. The only suitable EV is the Tesla. It can do about 450km on one charge, but it takes about 6 ½ hours to charge the battery fully on a normal charger. Compare that to 5 mins to fill a petrol vehicle. 
  • Trips may be restricted due to insufficient charging places. 
  • To build charging points countrywide, including in many homes, we may not be able to provide sufficient electrical energy.
  • Most EV’s only travel a relatively short distance on a charge. So they will essentially be town cars or a second car. 
  • When the weather is cold the batteries do not work well. Distance travelled is shortened.  You could end up stranded on a highway in very cold conditions. 
  • When you need to replace the battery the cost is prohibitive. If you try and sell the vehicle nobody wants it as they do not want the cost of a new battery, (if you can get one!).  As in Europe and elsewhere, your car may end up in a car cemetery. 
  • You cannot have too many EV’s in one area as the electricity grid may overload.  
  • The production of a battery releases a lot of CO2.  Although CO2 does NOT cause global warming it kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it? 
  • Germany has banned EV’s from underground car parks due to the fire risk. Batteries can catch fire.

A friend of mine has some friends who were driving north of Wellington in their relatively new EV when for no apparent reason the battery caught fire. Fortunately, they escaped unhurt but the car was a write-off. Readers may be familiar with the fact that cell phones occasionally catch fire too. They have the same battery technology. 

Issues with Lithium-ion batteries

Electric vehicles are powered with a Lithium-ion battery. A danger occurs when the battery is damaged say in a rear end or side rear collision, or if the battery is exposed to extreme heat, or if something penetrates the battery wall.  The batteries can store a large amount of energy in a small space.  When damaged, that energy escapes by a process called thermal runaway, and it can lead to ignition or even explosion.

This is not common but if it does occur it can be extremely dangerous. In an EV fire over 100 organic chemicals are generated. These include toxic gases like Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen Cyanide both of which are fatal to humans. While the fire service can wear protection the general public will not generally have this protection. The recommendation for an EV fire is to let it burn out. That means closing a road for several hours. That is because the water required to put the fire out has to run somewhere and it will contain nasty chemicals.  However, once the fire is out the problem is not over. EV fires are known to reignite hours, days or even weeks after the initial event, and they can do so several times. Recovery firms are increasingly concerned about dealing with EVs. Just because a fire has burned out there is no way of knowing if it will ignite on the back of a pick-up truck or in storage later. 

At present there are no recycling facilities in NZ. So what do you do with spent batteries? 

The fallacies of Shaw’s “green policies”

James Shaw’s fuel efficiency overreach is promised on the fallacious notion that his net zero “greenhouse gas” emissions goal will somehow end billions of years of climate change on this planet and we will power ourselves with solar and wind materials while China builds a new coal fired power station each week.   

How many billions of dollars will it cost to provide electricity from wind and solar stations? Moreover, when do the EV owners most want to charge their batteries? At night, when there is no sun and probably no wind blowing. 

An EV charging station in Paekakariki.

Modern petrol and diesel vehicles have catalytic converters in the exhaust. My 1994 vehicle even has one.  Apart from being economical, these vehicles emit only Carbon Dioxide and water. Carbon Dioxide does NOT cause global warming nor any adverse weather effects. (Only 0.04% of the atmosphere is made up of carbon dioxide.) 

We need more Carbon Dioxide not less. The latest news states that a group of NZ chemists are working on a way to take Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere.  Are they funded by the government?  If all the worlds’ chemists started drawing Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere millions of people in developing countries would die. 

The value of Carbon Dioxide

More Carbon Dioxide means greater crop production needed to feed the increasing world population. 

Then killing off the worlds’ population is what the World Economic Forum (WEF) wants, so no surprises there. (Check out the WEF website). Carbon Dioxide is not a pollutant and it is not poisonous. Submariners survive in levels of 8000 ppm. We currently have only about 420 ppm!  If the level of Carbon Dioxide falls below about 150 ppm then all plants die.  Then of course we die too.  

Oh, and just to put the cat among the pigeons,  most honest scientists predict we will be entering another little ice age by 2030-2040. The earth is already cooling due to little or no sunspot activity. There have recently been record low temperatures in parts of the Northern Hemisphere, and many deaths of people and animals due to the cold. We haven’t felt it in New Zealand yet because we are surrounded by ocean. It takes a long time to heat or cool the oceans because of their huge volume, but the cold will eventually reach NZ. We shall need all the warming we can get. 

So if you don’t mind the high price, don’t need to drive very far or very often, have a reliable weather-independent recharging source, never need to drive in very cold weather and don’t care about the environment and human rights, then buy an electric vehicle.