INTERVIEW: Let’s get real about EVs’ environmental impact, rare metal expert says – by Sei Matsumoto (Nikkei Asia – February 2, 2024)

Decades needed to find cost-effective clean energy tech: Tokyo University’s Toru Okabe

TOKYO — As the world embraces electric vehicles as a solution to carbon dioxide emissions, there is too little discussion of the environmental harm associated with the metals needed to build them, says one of Japan’s foremost researchers in the field.

“EVs are supposed to be environmentally friendly, but they are causing environmental problems, and that is a reality that is probably difficult for companies to say if they are aware of it,” Toru Okabe, a professor and the director of the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science, told Nikkei.

Edited excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: What are your views on the sharp rise in demand for rare metals from the EV industry?

A: The spread of EVs is a good thing since they do not emit CO2, and the advances in technology are remarkable. But EV batteries and motors contain larges quantities of rare metals.

The process of mining the ores from underground and extracting useful metal produces vast amounts of harmful material. Japan imports only “clean” product from which harmful substances have been removed, but we need to recognize the environmental risks upstream.

For the rest of this interview: