Electric bikes or Ebikes are being quickly adopted in a lot of cities worldwide, From California to Amsterdam. They provide an easy way to move about the city without using up a lot of effort, but they have some dark sides few people know of and even fewer talk about.
Hi, I’m Alan Hale, CEO of Tetsuuma Motors Ltd. Now, why is the CEO of an electric bike company telling you e-bikes are trash? Maybe it is to throw shade at competitors, maybe it is to sell more of my e-bikes or maybe it is to help make sure we don’t contribute further to the looming disaster which current ebikes and eScooters are fueling.
The key technology that makes ebikes so light and energetic is the Lithium-Ion NMC battery cell. It is a type of battery made from lithium metal, nickel, manganese, and cobalt. Cobalt is a rare earth metal that you might have heard about. It gained its negative reputation when minors (young children) were found working in mines in Congo DR; extracting the cobalt used in iPhones. Most cobalt in the world is mined from Congo with very loose labour laws and human rights enforcement. Worst of all, the fact that cobalt is such a rare earth mineral, large swathes of rainforest must be mowed down to extract it, devastating entire ecosystems, endangering dozens of species and contributing to climate degradation.
As if to throw insult to injury, most of the batteries produced using this technology can only last for a 500–800 charge cycle, meaning they can only last about 2–3 years of commuting use before they become too unreliable and more likely to be disposed of. Aside from that, they are unstable and prone to setting themselves on fire like the hoverboards, if you can still remember those. And once you are done with them, good luck trying to dispose of these batteries. They cause terrible problems for the environment when they make their way to landfills and start to leak toxic chemicals into the soil. I hear you screaming, ‘Why don’t we just recycle them’. Well, recycling these cells has only just begun, and it has been found that they are incredibly difficult to recycle. So here we have a technology whose raw material must be mined by devastating entire ecosystems, employing children in its mines, only to produce an unstable battery with a short life span that can barely be recycled, only to end up poisoning the soil.
Now what, never buy an ebike? Keep on driving gas-guzzling, CO2 producing cars? Accept that we are bound to set this planet on fire? Fear not, better battery technologies are coming to the scene, like Lithium Ferro phosphate battery which has no nickel or cobalt in its chemistry. Meaning you can rest assured that you aren’t paying for the extinction of the friendly sex happy bonobo chimpanzees or the African Unicorn (Yes this is real, google it). That’s why we decided early in the designing of the e-Stallion to feature a battery pack made entirely of Lithium Ferrophosphate and to implement a buyback programme to repurchase our battery packs after their 5 Year warranty. The repurchased packs will be used in creating Off-Grid Energy storage for communities in developing nations to aid in their development.
So, what can you do to push for change? All you need to do is start asking electric bike brands or suppliers if they use Lithium Ferro phosphate or Li-Ion NMC. If they say they use Li-ion, ask them why they don’t use Ferrophosphate instead. This small act of pressure is all it would take to slowly push brands to adopt the technology because most electric bike brands listen very closely to what you demand. With your help, we can change this industry and stop contributing to the destruction of our environment.