Seattle Electric Vehicle Association
Jun 14, 2022 meeting minutes
The June 14, 2022 membership meeting of Seattle Electric Vehicle Association convened in the social hall of First Church of the Nazarene in Wallingford. President Jay Donnaway was attending EVS35 in Oslo; in his absence, Vice President Grace Reamer chaired the meeting. At 7:07 p.m., former scribe Kevin Boze issued the call to order.
NEW ATTENDEES: Duane is from Federal Way and wants to learn and put something together. Laura lives in Port Orchard, and came with her mother, Jackie, who is visiting from Tucson, from where she drove her 2021 Model 3. Evan is going to grad school and uses his bicycle for transportation.
SPECIAL GUEST: Cliff Rice worked as a biologist in the Pacific and in Washington State, and is now retired from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and serves as an affiliate assistant professor in the UW School of Environment and Forest Sciences. He’s interested in the environmental impacts of mining for minerals needed for EV batteries. He’s a board member of the Alliance for Tompotika Conservation. Tompotika is a peninsula on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, which is facing risks from plans for increased nickel production. Here are some thoughts from his presentation:
From 2018 to 2030, a 14-fold increase in global battery demand is projected, predominantly from mobility applications. The environmental impacts of most concern are from the production of lithium, cobalt and nickel.
Lithium deposits are either spodumene, which is a hard-rock mineral, or saline, which would be lithium salts found in salt flats and their aquifers. Spodumene is not currently competitive with the cost of saline sources. Major saline sources include the “Lithium Triangle” of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia in the high Andean desert; the Salton Sea; and Thacker Pass, which is a former lake in Nevada. Permitting for Thacker Pass was recently approved.
The Lithium Triangle includes 75 percent of the world’s deposits. It includes the Salar de Atacama, which holds the world’s highest-grade lithium, though 20-50 percent of its ore has already been extracted. Environmental issues in the Atacama Desert (a famously arid area) include impacts on species such as flamingoes and some unique bats that require a briny habitat. Extracting the lithium for one Leaf’s battery pack requires 2,000 gallons of water, perhaps a manageable issue in non-arid areas but a real problem around the Atacama, where this water use directly competes with what’s needed for animal grazing.
Supply security is an issue. Forbes Magazine reported that production at 2019 levels will last 200 years, but if 10 times that much production is needed for increased EV demand, then it would be more like 20 years.
Issues with mining cobalt, which comes mostly from the Congo: Some of the production is by artisanal miners, that is, indigenous people mining with hand tools and traditional methods. This frequently employs child labor. The process creates pollution of waterways.
Issues with mining nickel: Strip mining of rainforests and biodiverse areas such as Sulawesi creates environmental issues, such as the release of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals. Populations are displaced. Hexavalent chromium (which Cliff noted was the toxin battled by Erin Brockovich) is released. Laterite nickel must be strip-mined, and then either smelted or treated by high-pressure acid leaching (“HPAL”) in order to produce battery-grade purity. There’s also sulphide nickel, but 20 percent of all battery-grade nickel from this ore is produced by Russia, with obvious geopolitical concerns. Laterite nickel is generally found in the equatorial Pacific and sulphide nickel in the northern hemisphere. Expanded mining of this mineral is proposed for Sulawesi’s Tompotika Peninsula.
Scientists are concerned that production of battery materials is trading environmental and social impacts for reduced carbon emissions. This can be viewed as environmental neocolonialism, with consuming countries exporting the impacts.
Mitigation options: Efforts and organizations include the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), the Responsible Minerals Initiative, the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, and the Global Battery Alliance. Cliff said that there are currently insufficient amounts of battery materials for cost-effective recycling, and there are problems repurposing nickel. EV batteries can be repurposed for stationary electric-utility storage, but Cliff suggested that it would be better to recycle them in order to reduce mining and production of new materials.
New battery chemistries hold promise for reducing the use of cobalt and nickel, for example, development of sodium-ion batteries. For now, lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries have the least impact. EV owners can reduce impacts by reducing miles driven, choosing vehicles employing LFP, and avoiding vehicles that include nickel in the chemistry. The rear-wheel-drive Model 3 uses LFP, but other Teslas use lithium-nickel-cobalt-aluminum oxide. Many other manufacturers use lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt.
Cliff shared a recording of a song he wrote to the tune of “Would You Like to Swing on a Star,” summarizing the issues with battery-materials production. Here is the video of So You Want An Electric Car?
Q and A: Steve Lough asked about chemical treatment of battery materials to improve their longevity. Cliff wasn’t sure. Steve asked if the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels have done the most damage. Cliff responded that mitigation of battery-production impacts should be the focus. Brian Hughes asked about extraction from seawater; Cliff agreed that it should be pursued. There was another question comparing damage from fossil fuels with that from battery materials, given that both are now simultaneously occurring. Cliff emphasized that he supports the transition to electric mobility, but thinks that battery production needs to be managed, and nickel should be avoided.
Cliff was generous enough to share his slide deck with SEVA. It is too large a file to attach here, but just let us know if you would like to get a copy.
For more information about this topic, see Cliff’s op-ed in the Seattle Times.
REPORT FROM EVS35. Grace relayed Jay’s report from Oslo, Norway. He test drove a new Polestar 2 with a comically performing rear camera. He saw loaders and other heavy commercial vehicles. Jay described a 5-seat Mini Cooper with a bejeweled shifter. There was a DCFC called the “ELCHAGRE” with a 360-kw capacity; it supports construction equipment and outputs using CHAdeMo, CCS or AC. Also on display was a plug-and-play charging solution that draws no more than residential-service 240V, 200-amp, but it stores the energy and can perform 20 DCFC sessions daily. Jay learned of a single-payment system available for all charging networks, created by the EV club in Norway. The report included some photos and videos, including Jay driving a PodBike, and videos showing “chargers you never heard of,” “companies you will hear of” and booths from many countries.
EV RACING – Pat McCue talked about racing his Mach-E. Pat said that NHRA now allows EVs to race. Summit-EV is now open at Pacific Raceway in Kent to production vehicles (not conversions). Those interested can race for a $50 entry fee on seven different event dates this summer. The first 10 cars to show up will be reimbursed half the fee. Tesla Plaids are allowed to race the quarter-mile as fast as 9.5.
GASLESS ON GREENWOOD – Mark Schiller reported that he has 23 registrations so far for the Greenwood Auto Show on June 25. Registered are a good mix of cars, including a Mach-E and several conversions. Registrations should be sent in by next week. SEVA probably will be situated in the same location as previous years, across the street from the former Safeway and on the same side as the former Walgreen’s, but the Greenwood Knights haven’t completely confirmed that yet. Steve and Donna Lough will be hosting the after-party, BYOB.
OTHER EVENTS – Grace reported that Seattle City Light is doing a family event on July 28 and they’re requesting a couple more EVs to be displayed for more variety besides the city’s Bolts and Leafs. Paul Kahle said that he’ll be demonstrating EV paraphernalia at the Oregon Country Fair, July 8-10 in Veneta, OR. Pat McCue said that the Sonoma EV Fest will also be July 8-10.
Grace concluded the meeting at 8:42 p.m.
Minutes submitted by Secretary Billy Kreuter and edited by VP Grace Reamer
Zoom Meeting Recording(s):
: Did Not Stream Meeting