Magazine article New Internationalist

Electric Cars - the Downside

Magazine article New Internationalist

Electric Cars - the Downside

Article excerpt

DRCONGO

Last year was an exciting one for electric vehicles (EVs). General Motors, Renault-Nissan and Tesla unveiled new models at the Paris motor show in October; Jaguar paraded an electric SUV in Los Angeles in November.

The fact that EVs are now expected to make up a growing proportion of vehicles sold by the 2020s could be good news for cutting carbon emissions. But how the batteries that power them are manufactured is a cause of concern to campaigners, who fear that this surge in demand will fuel conflict and aggravate poor conditions for workers in unstable Majority World countries where the rare minerals that go into the lithiumion batteries are mined.

One such vital material is cobalt. Some 60 per cent of global supply is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is suffering a surge in pollution and birth defects as a result of cobalt mining, according to a recent investigation by The Washington Post.

'It is a major paradox of the digital era that some of the world's richest, most innovative companies are able to market incredibly sophisticated devices without being required to show where they source raw materials for their components,' says Emmanuel Umpula, Director of Afrewatch, a DRC-based NGO that works towards the just and sustainable use of natural resources. …

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