Amnesty International Blasts the Electric Vehicle Industry

Photo of a mining pit, with a mountain range in the background.

Amnesty International blasted the electric vehicle industry on Tuesday for not being as environmentally-friendly as it claims, calling attention to little-discussed aspects of its supply chain.

The human rights group said in a release that the industry, which touts itself as green, produces many of its lithium-ion batteries using polluting power sources. In addition, human rights violations are linked to the extraction of the minerals used in the batteries, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Electric vehicles are key to shifting the motor industry away from fossil fuels, but they are currently not as ethical as some retailers would like us to believe,” the report reads.

The human rights violations are atrocious and electric vehicle companies should immediately take steps to make sure they are only using ethically sourced materials in their batteries. It will be a complex process, but the only way to stop the human rights violations is to cut the mining companies out that are committing them.

Manufacturing lithium-ion batteries is a carbon-intensive exercise, but this is a trickier issue for electric vehicle manufacturers to tackle. The responsibility of reducing the carbon footprint is largely up to the countries where the batteries are produced, including China, South Korea and Japan. Power generation in these countries is dependent on coal and other fossil fuels.

However, one thing that electric vehicle manufacturers can focus on is improving the recyclability of the lithium-ion batteries. Batteries are currently collected and recycled at a rate less than 5%, according to the Department of Energy. A focus on recycling the raw materials of batteries will help reduce the need to produce more batteries in the long run, slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

Electric vehicles are considered environmentally friendly, but their supply chain tells a different story. Clearly the industry needs to clean up its act.