Archive for September, 2009

Hybrids are Doomed

Here’s why battery-powered hybrids are not the answer.  These things are trading one non-renewable resource for another.  It’s trading dependence on one country to dependence on another. 

Battery power requires mining (a very ‘un-green’ process), then shipping of heavy materials, then chemical processing, then shipping of heavy batteries, then safe disposal of highly toxic materials.  And while oil reserves are centered in a few varied regions – rare metals used in hybrids are found almost exclusively in China.  And guess what China’s doing… slowing down exports to drive up prices, thereby increasing our dependence on not just a foreign country, but a superpower. 

The Prius may be a gas sipper, but it guzzles Earth’s rare materials (it is the largest user of rare materials on the planet, according to Fast Company).   The Prius just went from being one of the most efficient/Earth-friendly cars, to being an inefficient predator of rare materials.

What we need are renewable solutions.  Non-renewable ideas create the same dependence, financial and ecological problems.  We need things like the strains of prarie grass that pack the same energy as corn, without requiring crop rotation, without irrigation, without pesticides. 

September 2, 2009, Associated Press
China, which produces 95 percent of the world’s rare earth metals used in superconductors, hybrid cars and other high-tech devices, plans to limit its exports to prop up prices and conserve its reserves, an official said Wednesday.


Septbember 1, 2009, Reuters
Jack Lifton, an independent commodities consultant and strategic metals expert, calls the Prius “the biggest user of rare earths of any object in the world.”

Each electric Prius motor requires around two pounds of neodymium, and each battery uses 22-33 pounds of lanthanum. That number will nearly double under Toyota’s plans to boost the car’s fuel economy, he said. 


August 31, 2009, Fast Company
By most measures, hybrid cars are great–they save everyone’s favorite non-renewable resource (gasoline) and they’re quiet, too. But while these cars are oil-sippers, they guzzle rare earth metals–a class of 15 elements on the periodic table–during production. And just like gasoline, these elements are non-renewable.

Rare earth metals like neodymium, lanthium, and terbium are used in magnets for electric motors, hybrid car batteries, and even wind turbines. The Prius is the biggest user of rare earth metals in the world, with each motor using 2.2 pounds of neodymium and every battery housing 22 to 33 pounds of lanthium. 


August 31, 2009, Epoch Times
In 1997, Deng Xiaoping, the former general secretary of the Communist Party in China, announced that China would be, for rare earth metals, what the Middle East was for oil. At the time, it seemed too distant a reality to draw much concern.

A draft report form China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released late last month, however, could set off the alarm bells in boardrooms around the world.

The report is weighing a total ban on exporting rare earth metals needed to produce circuitry in consumer electronics, such as smartphones, MP3 music players, liquid crystal displays, and advanced battery technologies. The problem? China currently produces more than 90 percent of the global supply for production of such electronics.

Perhaps more importantly, in respect to green technology initiatives, the ban will also give China control of the development of green technology with products like electronic or hybrid cars, wind turbines, and energy efficient light bulbs all reliant on rare earth metals. 




September 2, 2009 at 6:52 pm Leave a comment

Newer Posts

Recent Posts