The Economics of Electric Cars
In the case of electric cars, public sentiment experiences cycles of both acceptance and rejection. The media, astroturfers, big oil and environmentalists alike are generating a lot of mixed information regarding the practical and commercial potential of an electric vehicle economy. Although the technologies are rapidly improving, the market is still in its infancy and buyers are skeptical of purchasing cars that will become cheaper and more efficient if they just hold out. So, is it worth buying one yet?
Cheaper to own, more to buy
In considering the amount of money that could be saved in fuel and maintenance, there's no argument that electric cars are already capable of tremendous savings over the course of their lifetime. An electric car is able to go about the same distance, using 80 cents of electricity, than a gas fueled car can on $4-5 of gasoline. So, even if the cost of electricity were to go up, it wouldn't be nearly as volatile or high as the price at the pump.
Electric motors are also up to five times more efficient than internal combustion engines. While 70 percent of the energy from a gallon of gasoline is mostly wasted in heat, 10 percent is used for the drive train and only 20 percent is actually used to power the vehicle. In an electric car, approximately 95 percent of the energy from its battery is used to move it forward. Additionally, no oil changes or tune ups are required. There's no engine, transmission, spark plugs, valves, fuel tank, tailpipe, distributor, starter, clutch, muffler, etc...
With most costing around $35,000 and up, many complain the initial price tag is still too high—and those prices won't come down until companies are able to truly mass produce them. The government's $7,500 rebate has been rollbacked to next year, which should help bring electric cars down to as low as the mid $20,000 range. In the end, it's still cheaper to buy electric if the customer is buying new.
The electricity an electric car consumes is not only cheaper, but has the potential to increase domestic energy security while decreasing carbon emissions.
“It keeps the energy in the country,” says Chris Payne, director of Revenge of the Electric Car at a film screening. “Even if we're burning coal, the money stays here and it turns around to create jobs.”
The electricity consumed in the US also has the capability of getting much greener and utilities are already moving towards incorporating cleaner energy sources into the grid. Coal is currently the number one source of electricity generation in the country and has been growing every year until up to about two years ago when some 40 new coal plants were denied permits. According to the last report from the Energy Information Administration, coal is coming down and is now below 55 percent of the country's total energy source.
Every vehicle that is currently on the road is made up of lead acid batteries that get changed out every three years on average.
“This could be one of the biggest streams of toxic waste going out into our environment today, but because of the efforts of a lot of people, it is one of the most highly recycled products in the world today,” says Mike Kane of Plug In America. “About 97 percent come back or are recaptured.”
If that's already happening with current batteries, there's no reason it wouldn't with electric car batteries, especially since the cost of materials used to make them is a lot more expensive and valuable than lead. The lithium batteries many cars are coming out with now are even more valuable, and companies like Nissan are starting to use them for second life applications like backup power supplies for hospitals or schools.
“Thus, it's very unlikely that disposal or recycling of batteries is going to be a major problem,” says Payne.
In the bigger picture, getting the public on board is going to require changing the image of electric cars, which have not exactly been known for their sex appeal. Fortunately, automakers like Tesla Motors, BMW and others have already started creating electric luxury vehicles and sports cars to help curb the lack of variety on the market. Of course, those models could run anywhere from $50,000 to $450,000. As for the rest of the public, the battle will remain focused on the economics of owning and operating electric when they go to buy a new car—but we're getting there.
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.