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Autos need finite rare earth, critical, & precious metals

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An electric car uses five times as much minerals as a conventional car (IEA 2020):

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IEA, Minerals used in selected power generation technologies, IEA, Paris

There are 17 rare earth elements (REE) that China controls up to 97% of (Klare 2012, Shumsky 2011). These are essential for transitioning to so-called green energy — not just cars but solar panels, windmills, solar photovoltaic, computers, electronics, the smart grid and more.

All of them depend on finite rare earth metals mainly controlled by China. At least we can import oil from dozens of nations. REE make us dependent on China, and China is also constructing mines all over the world — it’s as if Saudi Arabia bought up all the remaining oil fields.

Mining is the second most toxic, environmentally damaging industry on earth, so unlike most writers, I am against opening new mines in the U.S.  Let the Chinese destroy their land, already 20% of their arable land is polluted with toxic heavy metals from mining and industry.  Plus since conventional oil peaked in 2018, why would we bother to do this, since all of these contraptions are uttely dependent on oil, coal, and gasoline to be constructed for every step of their life cycle.

In 2011, nine of the REE were used in cars.  Some EV car motors use REE elements neodymium, terbium, or dysprosium in their magnet motor. Each electric Prius motor requires 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of neodymium, and each battery uses 10 to 15 kg (22-33 lb) of lanthanum (Gorman 2009). Other EVs use induction motors with copper coils.

Cars using internal combustion engines also use precious and rare earth metals in their catalytic converter: palladium, rhodium, cerium, and/or platinum and the gasoline they burn oil was refined using rare earths, such as lanthanum and cerium, and critical elements like cobalt.

In addition, these applications use rare earth elements, i.e. metal alloys or production process, so cars may also have these as well: Aluminum and steel, ceramics, computer chips, electronics, LCD screen, light-emitting diodes.

If an electric car uses electricity & electric grid or GPS, then these REE and critical elements were indirectly used: Wind turbines (up to 150 kg neodymium & praseodymium per MW), Solar panels (indium, gallium), Photovoltaic cells (Germanium, silicon metal), Steel production (fluorspar, vanadium, Ytterbium), Nuclear power (Europium, Gadolinium, Cerium, Yttrium, Samarium, Erbium, Beryllium, Niodymium), Satellites (Niobium), Semi-conductors (gallium, Holmium), Semi-conductors (gallium, Holmium), Fiber optics (Germanium, Erbium Europium, Terbium, Yttrium), Electronics and electricity (Tungsten) and more.

Already, and increasingly, China controls REE from mining to final production of high-tech goods, and is likely to export REE less and less as they use them for their own high-value products.  Until some point of oil decline that is…

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