The biggest spend in President Joe Biden’s core infrastructure plan is the $174 billion he’s dedicated in taxpayer money to promote electric vehicles and EV charging stations around the country. It’s more than his proposed $80 billion spend in public transit, $80 billion for railroads, and the $115 billion for upkeep and construction on traditional infrastructure items like highways, bridges and roads.
Mr. Biden’s plan includes incentives for rich Americans to buy these cars and to get more EV chargers installed around the country — to the tune of 500,000 charging stations by 2030.
It’s an ambitious goal, considering just under 5.4 million hybrid electric cars have sold in the U.S. as of 2019, comprising only 1.6% of all new light-duty vehicle sales between 1999 and 2019. A Tesla that can drive more than 520 miles without needing a new charge has a starting sticker price of $141,190 — far beyond the means of most Americans.
Yet, President Biden wants to subsidize these vehicles — so the rich will pay less, and hopefully be incentivized to buy more. He’s already signed an executive order mandating all 645,000 vehicles in the federal fleet be converted to “clean and zero-emission vehicles.”
The dirty secret with these clean cars is something no one is talking about yet: What happens when their lithium-ion battery dies? Most EV manufacturers only guarantee them for five to eight years. Each one can weigh upwards of 1,100 pounds in size. Currently, many end up in the trash, where their core elements seep into the earth potentially contaminating soil and water supplies, not to mention they can become fire and explosion hazards.
EV battery components such as nickel have been linked to lung and nasal cancer. Manganese can lead to neurological problems. Cobalt — a possible carcinogen — can cause asthma and pneumonia.
Recycling EV batteries requires them burned or ground up and treating the “black mass” with solvents. It’s a process your local scrap shop simply can’t handle. Currently, less than 5% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled, and although efforts to improve recycling are underway, only around half of the materials used in these batteries are extracted and the rest released as air emissions.
Plus, recycling is expensive. EV manufacturers all use different processes in developing their batteries and they aren’t required to disclose the contents of their batteries to potential recyclers. Then there’s the cost of transporting and processing spent batteries — in most cases the total cost of recycling outweighs the value of the extracted materials.
So what does all of this mean? If the U.S. is going to ambitiously convert to EVs in less than a decade, then more federal taxpayer subsidies will be needed to help with the clean-up of these spent cars. More regulation, to force EV manufacturers to take back used batteries from consumers. More bureaucratic red tape and government intervention.
For, without it, the cost of “going green” will surely lead to these batteries being dumped or exported to countries with lower environmental standards where they will pollute the environment and threaten public health.