Ph.D. Student Breaks Down the Lies Being Spread About Electric Vehicles

By: Lauren | Published: Jan 29, 2024

Electric vehicles have technically been on the market for years, but recently, they have become much bigger news as many believe they are at least part of the answer to the planet’s climate change dilemma.

However, there have been some who argue that electric vehicles, or EVs, are not nearly as environmentally friendly as they’re rumored to be. But one TikToker has recently gone viral for explaining to these naysayers just how wrong they are.

Who Is Rosh?

Rosh, who goes by @all_about_climate on TikTok, is a Ph.D. student with degrees in earth and climate science who creates videos explaining the current climate crisis to his thousands of followers.

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Screenshot from @all_about_climate’s TikTok video

Source: @all_about_climate/TikTok

And in one of his most recent clips, he addresses and completely debunks the theory that EVs are bad for the environment.

The Theory in Question

Before diving into Rosh’s response to the EV hypothesis, it’s first crucial to understand this idea and why many people believe that EVs are actually bad for the environment.

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Man holding a lithium-ion battery for an EV

Source: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The theory is based on the fact that EVs use lithium batteries to run, and as the first clip in Rosh’s TikTok says, “The amount of money and the amount of energy being used to make a lithium battery, it’s more dangerous for the environment than a fuel, internal combustion engine.”

Lithium Needs to Be Mined to Create the Batteries

Because the lithium needed to make EV batteries is mined from below the earth’s surface, many argue that mining the chemical element will cause more harm to the planet.

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In an aerial view, salt evaporation ponds are seen on Bristol Dry Lake, where Standard Lithium Ltd. is preparing to use Direct Lithium Extraction

Source: David McNew/Getty Images

Specifically, they believe that mining the excessive amount of lithium needed to produce more EVs will use more CO2-emitting fossil fuels than would be used by producing and using standard, gas-powered vehicles.

Rosh Proceeds to Debunk the Lithium Battery Theory

After showing his followers the short clip explaining the concept that EVs are bad for the environment, he proceeds to share a graph Generation Investment Management released that shows just how much aluminum, iron, copper, and lithium were mined in 2022.

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Screenshot of @all_about_climate’s TikTok showing a graph of chemical mining

Source: @all_about_climate/TikTok

The graph clearly shows that while 1.3 million kilotons of iron, 69,000 kilotons of aluminum, and 26,000 kilotons of copper were mined that year, only 130 kilotons of lithium were removed from the Earth.

Rosh Includes How Much Lithium Will Be Mined in 2050

Rosh also includes information from the International Energy Agency which states that the estimated demand for lithium will only be at 1,313 kilotons by 2050.

Inside of an EV showing its lithium-ion batteries

Source: Wikimedia Commons

And that is allegedly accounting for the vast number of EVs that will be built over the next 27 years. Rosh explains, “So, yes, we do need to mine lithium. But the scale of it is nothing compared to what we are already doing.”

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Lithium Batteries Are 95% Recyclable

Although Rosh’s video doesn’t use the argument that lithium batteries are also recyclable, his followers certainly did in the comment section.

Lithium Battery Recycling Solutions and Aktrion Group display reclaimed materials/elements, including Lithium battery shreds from recycled EV Lithium batteries Title: Lithium Battery Shreds

Source: John Keeble/Getty Images

And these TikTokers actually have it right; according to J.D. Power, the majority of EV lithium batteries are up to 90% recyclable, and some recycling companies can even reuse 98% of the used batteries.

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What About the Fossil Fuels Used to Mine Lithium Batteries?

There is no doubt that mining lithium will certainly use fossil fuels that release CO2 into the air, but what Rosh is explaining is that these fossil fuels in no way compare to the building and use of standard cars.

Climate activists protest to demand a phase-out of fossil fuels on day twelve at the UNFCCC COP28 Climate Conference

Source: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

For every ton of lithium mined, 15 tons of C02 are released, and as every EV only needs about 8 kilograms of lithium, one ton would create 125 vehicles. However, after the EVs are built, they don’t release any C02 into the air, whereas the average car will emit 4.6 tons every year.

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There Is Plenty of Lithium on the Planet

Another argument about lithium mining and EVs is that the planet simply doesn’t have enough of the chemical element to build enough vehicles for the entire population to go electric.

In this aerial view, visitors stand atop a large mound of salt bi-product from lithium production at a lithium mine in the Atacama Desert

Source: John Moore/Getty Images

However, recent data also debunked that theory. Earth currently has 88 million tons of lithium, which could make 11 billion lithium-ion batteries, not to mention the fact that these batteries are completely recyclable and reusable.

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EVs Are Quite Clearly Better for the Environment, They’re Just Not Perfect

It’s important to understand that, as Rosh says, “Electric vehicles alone won’t solve climate change” (via Yahoo).

Electric vehicle charging in a parking lot

Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

And mining for lithium does use fossil fuels, which many environmentalists around the world are hoping will be completely terminated in the near future. But they are still a better option than the cars we use now.

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Where Did the EV Rumor Come From?

If, as the numbers show, EVs will undoubtedly use less fossil fuels and produce less C02 than regular cars both while they’re being built and after they’re up and running, where did this rumor come from?

The Tesoro refinery, located South of Los Angeles, is the largest refinery on the West Coast

Source: Bob Riha Jr./Getty Images

Some argue that “Big Oil” companies who have the most to lose from electric vehicles wanted to spread doubt as to whether or not they were really better for the planet than other cars, but no one knows for sure.

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There Is No Such Thing as Entirely Clean Energy

The truth is that, at this point, there is no such thing as entirely clean energy. For years, humans have relied far too heavily on fossil fuels, as we really don’t know how to function without them yet.

Several electric vehicles charging in a line

Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images

However, many hope that as we learn more about renewable and sustainable energy sources, as well as take steps toward minimizing fossil fuel emissions, we will be able to make real and lasting changes to the system and the planet itself.

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