The hidden toll of electric cars, Part 2
In today’s installment of our series on the hidden toll of electric vehicles, reporter Gerry Shih ventures into the mountains of Afghanistan to find out what happens when loads of untapped lithium – a key part of electric vehicles – trigger a cross-border “gold rush.”
“Waste kunzite” is what Afghan miners call the white rock that is all around them. It’s “waste” to them because they don’t have the capacity to extract it or sell it now. But around the world, this rock is extremely valuable. It contains lithium, an essential ingredient in the long-lasting battery within the floor of each electric vehicle.
The demand for lithium – and electric vehicles more broadly – is rising fast, while states such as California and New York move to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars over the next decade. President Biden is also pushing for electric vehicles to make up at least half of new car sales by 2030. Despite the real benefits of going electric, the sourcing of raw materials in electric vehicles carries serious human, environmental and geopolitical costs that are often overlooked by consumers, manufacturers and policymakers.
Today on “Post Reports,” we set out to unearth these tensions in Afghanistan, where an untapped trove of lithium ore is beginning to garner interest from both the Taliban and Chinese prospectors, who are looking to secure their grip on this sought-after global market.
“There's a lot of money to be made here and there's a lot of interest in this resource,” Shih tells “Post Reports.” “When we consider holistically the pros of this great shift towards EVs, we also have to look at some of the unintended consequences.”
More from The Post’s bigger series, “Clean Cars, Hidden Toll”:
- In the scramble for EV metals, a health threat to workers often goes unaddressed.
- To meet EV demand, industry turns to technology long deemed hazardous.
- Despite reforms, mining for EV metals in Congo exacts steep cost on workers.
- On the frontier of new “gold rush,” the quest for coveted EV metals yields misery.
- Minerals are crucial for electric cars and wind turbines. Some worry whether we have enough.