How Electric Vehicles Won’t Save Us

Minerals are also non-renewable resources
7 min readMay 20


One of the few pieces of ‘capital’ an ordinary human owns is a car. Given the planet-fuckery that capitalism has become, this is the most obvious thing to ‘fix’. Today we are relentlessly advertised electric vehicles as a solution, a transition that lets us have our cake and eat it too. The promise is that we can have everything we had with fossil fuels except better. But is it true?

In the long-run, as discussed, you simply cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet, whatever the energy source. Whether the earth’s critters get run over by a petrol car or an electric car is really just a timing difference. But nobody gives a fuck about the long-run, so let’s look at the short term view (this century). Can we transition to electric vehicles, and will this be a significant part of saving the Earth? That is to say, can we have our climate cake and personal, climate-controlled vehicles too?

The Numbers

In one giant 1,000 page document, Simon Michaux goes through the Assessment of the Extra Capacity Required of Alternative Energy Electrical Power Systems to Completely Replace Fossil Fuels. EVs are just one thing he covers and I cite extensively from this source (which contains it own sources) here.

The scope of the problem he lays out is replacing at least 1.416 billion vehicles, ie the rough vehicle population in 2016. Note that the vehicle population has only been growing and has to keep growing or ‘markets’ seize up and die. So this is low-balling it. The first hurdle is that every EV requires a battery, which requires minerals/materials. What materials? These ones:

Figure 26.8. Lithium Ion Battery components by metal (Image: Simon Michaux) (Source: Argonne National Laboratory)

This is the breakdown of just one type of Lithium Ion battery, but this gives us an approximate sense of the ‘default’ EV battery requires. So the first question is do we have enough of this (non-renewable) stuff to make electric vehicles. And the first answer is no.



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at