How To Avoid A Battery Shortage (Hint: More E-Bikes, Not Electric Cars)
The world is in the midst of a beautiful transition, away from moving by burning oil, to moving by letting electrons flow. Those electrons are increasingly gathered from the sun (solar) or the flow of air (wind power) or water (hydro power). Roughly 99% of the new power generation installed in the US last year was renewable. Score! It'll take awhile for the old stuff to fade away, but that's the path we're all collectively on.
When it comes to transportation there's a need for somewhere to store those electrons on the vehicle until they're needed. That's where batteries come in. Electric cars, electric trucks, electric bikes, electric scooters, no matter the shape or size, if you're not plugged in when you're rolling, you're going to need a battery for your electric vehicle. But batteries need to be manufactured, which means factories, and it also means special materials. Maybe you've heard of lithium, maybe you've heard of nickel, maybe cobalt. Prices for these materials are through the roof right now, because it takes time to find those materials, and it takes time to build mines to get them from the Earth, and electric vehicle sales of all sorts are increasing faster than those materials can be found and mined.
And this is where the little electric vehicles really shine. Let's use numbers for a quick comparison: An electric car might have around 60kWh of batteries in it. If you don't know what a kWh is, don't worry, imagine that it's the energy in a cookie. An electric car drives around with 60 of these cookies, made out of lithium, nickel, and cobalt. And each year, that electric car drives maybe 12,000 miles. So, 12,000 miles divided by 60 cookies is 200 miles per cookie. The electric car went 200 miles for each lithium-nickel-cobalt cookie that it carried around.
Now, let's look at an electric bike. It also has a battery in it, but its battery is about 0.5kWh. It has half a cookie in it. And if someone uses one electric bike for getting around most days, say around 5 miles per day, that one bike will cover around 2,000 miles in a year. So, 2,000 miles divided by half a cookie is 4,000 miles for each lithium-nickel-cobalt cookie it carried around.
4,000 miles per cookie, or 200 miles per cookie. Each cookie you put in an electric bike delivers 20 times as many miles as a cookie you put in an electric car (4,000 / 200).
With the amount of lithium, nickel, and cobalt that the world is able to produce each year, you can have a certain number of batteries. That means a certain number of electric cars, and a certain number of miles traveled. Unfortunately, that certain number is not enough for everyone. You can have electric cars for the few, the way electric cars are today, or you can get 20 times as many miles per cookie, and have mobility and electric bikes for everyone.
So, let's not turn lithium, nickel, and cobalt into the oil of the future. People have been fighting over oil ever since it was first discovered. Hey, maybe someday there'll be enough lithium, nickel, and cobalt cookies for everyone to drive around with a big cookie jar that they barely use. In the meantime, let's not make a cookie shortage an excuse for continuing to kill ourselves and the planet with gas-burning cars. It turns out there's already more than enough cookies for everyone, if we'll just put our cookies in the electric bike jar.
Math, it works! Sincerely, Team FreeBike.