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step 5 – reflection on alternative

Case Study: Electric Cars

The project statement:
The global production of cars in 2011 was 60 million per year, growing at 3.3% per year. Cars account for 74% of production of motor vehicles and are responsible for about 20% of all the carbon released into the atmosphere [1]. National governments implement policies to reduce this source of emissions through taxation and incentives. One of the incentives is to subsidise electric vehicles (EVs). From a materials point of view, the major differences between electric and internal combustion (IC) cars are the replacement of the IC engine with electric motors that, at present, use Neodymium-Boron permanent magnets and the replacement of gasoline or diesel fuel by batteries. It is estimated that the global production of electric cars – either hybrids (HV), plug-in hybrids (PHV), or fully electric (EV) – will exceed 16 million per year in 2021 and will account for 20% of all vehicles manufactured [2]. EVs, particularly, are seen as the way to decarbonise road transport. France, Germany and the UK all have target EV sales of around 10% of all car sales by 2020. Is this a realistically achievable sustainable development on a global scale?
Background information:
• Today’s electric cars have 16 kWh batteries and a claimed range of up to 100 km between charges.
• An EV with this range requires about 1.5 kg of Neodymium for the motors [3] and 7.3 kg of lithium, (equating to 0.46 kg Lithium per nominal kWh) for the rechargeable batteries [4].
• The at-wheel energy required to propel a small car is between 0.6 and 1.0 MJ/km (0.17 and 3 kW.hr/km) [5].
• Delivered electric power from a gas-fired power station has a carbon footprint of 500 g/kW.hr, or 140 g/MJ [6]; that from a coal fired power station has larger carbon footprint.
1. www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html
2. http://imsresearch.com/news-events/press-template.php?pr_id=2135
3. www.reuters.com/article/2009/08/31/us-mining-toyota-idUSTRE57U02B20090831
4. Tahil, W. (2010) “How Much Lithium does a LiIon EV battery really need? www.meridian-int-res.com and http://www.google.co.uk/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF8&rlz=1T4ADBR_enGB321GB323&q=how+much+lithium+is+in+a+battery
5. Telens Peiro, L. Villalba Mendez, G. and Ayres, R.U. (2013) “Lithium: sources, production, uses and recovery outlook” JOM Vol65, pp. 896 – 996.
6. See, for example, www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13773-ghg-conversion-factors-2012.pdf Table 3c
Group number…………
Name of group members……………………………………………………………………………….
Step 5: Reflection on alternatives (10%)
You have now gathered the facts and made judgments about their impact on the three capitals, and is the technology is sustainable. Now you need to think over the findings. If all the indicators are positive, there is little more to consider. But if one or more of the indicators are negative, or if it appears unlikely that the Prime Objectives can be achieved, there is scope for reconsideration. You need to state below, what are the problems, the unintended consequences of the implementation and if there are any obstacles that need to still be tackled. Could these be avoided if the Objectives were met in another way?

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