As we mentioned in our previous blog post, How Green Are Electric Vehicles? (Part 1), some issues need to be addressed in order to make electric vehicles a sustainable option. In this article, we’re going to talk about the lack of charging infrastructure and what happens with lithium-ion batteries at the end of their life.

So, let’s jump right in!

Lithium-ion Batteries

Even though most parts of electric vehicles can be reused or recycled, there’s one in particular that can be difficult to deal with: the battery.

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, old car batteries could be used for other purposes, such as backup storage for renewable energy. Yet, making this possible is more complicated than it sounds.

On the other hand, these batteries contain valuable metals that can be recycled. So, when lithium-ion batteries can’t be reused or fixed, they could be recycled.

But here’s the problem: While 99% of lead-acid batteries (the ones used in conventional cars) are recycled in the United States, only 9% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled.

Why Does This Happen?

Lead-acid batteries are easy to dismantle. And more importantly, there are people interested in buying those recovered pieces. In contrast, recycling lithium-ion batteries costs a lot of money, which means their recovered metals wouldn’t have a competitive price on the market.

For that reason, some companies decide to store old batteries instead of recycling them, just in case they become valuable or cheaper to recycle at some point in the future. It goes without saying that those companies need to be careful with these batteries. Let’s remember that they can cause fires when stored together, just like other electronics can.

Charging Station Infrastructure

Since the electric car market is growing, there’s another problem policy-makers need to solve: the lack of charging infrastructure.

Although home charging is the most appropriate option for these vehicles, this solution would be limited to certain people. In particular, those who own their own home and can afford to install a charging station.  Furthermore, forcing apartment building owners to fund massive installation of electric charging stations for every resident would certainly cause many landlords to lose their investments (often a person's retirement), as well as exacerbate skyrocketing rents and corresponding homelessness. 

For those who don’t have a garage or a dedicated parking spot, charging electric cars would be problematic. That’s why policy-makers need to come up with better solutions to make home charging affordable and accessible for all.  Otherwise, electric cars would only magnify inequality.

Energy Shortages 

I have to mention briefly that another problem with electric cars is there is not much you can do when there are power outages or power shortages.  In all parts of the United States, there are frequently periods of time that we lose power, whether the outages are from ice storms, fires, or heat waves.  In California this past year, Governor Newsom asked residents not to charge their cars due to stresses on the power grid and power shortages.  This is hardly an encouragement for the general population to buy an electric car, when you might be left stranded unless you own a backup generator.


Developing electric vehicles is a great first step to decarbonizing our economy and mitigating climate change. That said, the EV industry and government need to work together to solve the issues mentioned before.

To make electric vehicles a sustainable option, it’s important to switch to renewable energy sources, make their production energy-efficient, solve the charging infrastructure problem, reuse and recycle old lithium-ion batteries, and responsibly source their raw materials.




October 03, 2023 — Debby McKnight