Some basic questions that may help.

What is an electric vehicle (EV)?


An EV (electric vehicle) is any vehicle that can drive on electricity derived from a power plug and stored in a traction battery. The battery is typically designed as the chassis of the vehicle and can be structural. All EVs can self-charge to differing extents, by capturing the power produced by the forward momentum of the car and using that power to recharge the batteries. This is referred to as regenerative braking or simply "regen." All EVs have a small starter battery, similar to those in internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

RULE OF THUMB: If you can't plug it in, it isn't an EV.

There are a few different ways to charge the traction batteries. You can learn about them here.

A BEV (battery electric vehicle) is a subset of EV where the vehicle only has an electric drivetrain. Usually these vehicles are 100% emission free while operating.

A subset of BEV which is not 100% emission free are those vehicles which can recharge the traction batteries optionally from a ICE generator, such as the BMW i3 REx. This generation must not drive the motor and must be turned on manually by the driver, or automatically only when the traction battery is fully discharged.

A PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid electric vehicle) is another subset of EV, and has a hybrid powertrain which commonly includes both an electric drivetrain and a separate petrol drivetrain in a variety of different configurations. A PHEV must be capable of being entirely powered by electricity, while its petrol powertrain is disengaged. Its batteries must be primarily rechargeable from a plug-in source of electricity. PHEVs are not 100% emission free.


An HEV (Hybrid electrified vehicle) is not an electric vehicle, as it does not fit the above criteria. A hybrid vehicle has an electric powertrain in addition to the petrol or diesel powertrain. They usually have very small traction batteries which can only be recharged via a fossil fuelled engine and to a small extent regeneration. Usually the driver has little to no control over when the vehicle will operate its electric drivetrain or its petrol drivetrain. While these vehicles have better fuel economy than an ICE vehicle, they potentially are worse for the environment on emissions than a PHEV, and are more complicated and expensive to maintain than a BEV.

An ICE (internal combustion engine vehicle) is not an electric vehicle. An ICE vehicle has a lead acid starter battery, but no traction batteries. It does not have an electric motor, but instead has an engine which is powered by the use of fossil fuels, such as diesel or petrol, and requires oil lubricants. Internal combustion engines are particularly inefficient as 75% of the fossil fuel put into them is lost to heat, idling, starting, etc. ICE are also NZ's second largest source of greenhouse gases, and NZ has one of the highest per person GHG emissions in the world. Road emissions also pollute our waterways and are a direct cause of a wide variety of health issues, including deaths.


Some vehicles that are not EVs are being marketed as "Self-Charging." It is important for consumers to realise that this term is a sales' gimmick. As mentioned above, all traction batteries are designed to self-charge during regenerative braking. So-called self-charging only accounts for a small percentage of the overall battery recharge - the rest must come from an outside source such as fossil fuels, or in the case of EVs by being plugged into an electricity supply such as the national grid.  


What is a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV)?


A PHEV is a car that operates on both electricity (from plugging in) and petrol, and therefore has an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. Usually a PHEV runs on electricity first and then draws on petrol once the battery is depleted. That way, you are mainly driving on electricity on short hops around town and only using petrol for those longer weekend trips. If a family has only one car then a PHEV is a good option; however still having an ICE engine means that it will require servicing regularly, which can be an expensive undertaking. Check out the Mitsubishi Outlander which has a great luggage capacity for families or the Toyota Priius Prime for a compact PHEV or the Audi e-tron, which may appeal to Audi drivers!

Is the Prius an electric car?


It depends which model of Prius you're talking about. The original Prius was a first generation hybrid, meaning it drives on both electricity and petrol. However the electric motor in a Prius makes the petrol engine operate at a much more efficient level, and anecdotally give an efficiency of 4.5 litres petrol per 100 km driven. But, and this is the big but, a original Prius cannot drive without petrol and it has no plug to charge the electric battery. Driving the original Prius charges the electric battery, and there is some regen whilst braking and travelling downhill, which is fed into the electric battery.

However, Toyota do now make a plug-in Prius, the Prius Prime, which makes it a PHEV, but sadly in NZ you see very few on the roads. Toyota has only recently (mid 2017) started selling used / refurbished Prius Prime cars in NZ. These are EVs as they can be driven up to 40km (at last revision) on battery alone, provided you don't go over 105kph, at which point the petrol motor kicks in.  

What you can say about a original Prius is that it was a handy stepping stone towards full BEV cars, and it seems mad that Toyota threw away the head start they owned in the early 2000's.


Can electric vehicles self-charge?


No. Energy conversions are never 100 percent efficient, so every time we convert one form of energy to another, we lose some of that energy. Hybrids and EVs recapture some of their energy back into the batteries through regenerative braking.

Can I hire an EV?


Currently, in New Zealand, there is car-sharing, car rentals and taxis, all offering EVs.

The following links may help you:

Yoogo Share 


Easy Transport Waiheke

My Car Your Rental


Car SharingBecause owning a car is no longer the future. Millions of people around the world are already very successfully car sharing. Remove the pains & costs of owning your own. Yoogo Share is a membership-based service and is free to join. They have bases in Christchurch and now Auckland. Vehicles available are BMW i3 and Hyundai ioniq.

EV Rentals: If you need a longer rental, try Europcars, available at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch Airports. Vehicle type available is Volkswagen eGolf.  My Car Your Rental has several privately owned electric vehicles on it's books, available for renting per day.

EV Taxis: On Waiheke Island, an all-electric service is available at Easy Transport. Offering Nissan LEAF and eNV200 van.  We understand that Green Cabs is no longer operating.

Are plug-in vehicles dependable?


Yes!  Plug-in cars are the most dependable vehicles on the market. They will last as long or longer than a comparable petrol vehicle, with much less regular maintenance required.

Since there are significantly fewer moving parts in an electric motor compared to a traditional ICE engine (in fact the electric motor has about 10% of the components of an ICE),  less ongoing preventative maintenance is needed.

An electric motor requires no oil changes, tune-ups, or new spark plugs. An electric motor will also outlast the body of the vehicle.

Brake life is extended on EVs since the motor is used to slow the car down once you take your foot off the accelerator, thus recapturing the kinetic energy and storing it back in the battery - this is called regeneration.

All automakers also offer good warranties on the life of the batteries. For example, the Nissan LEAF has been so reliable thousands of people are happy to import them used from Japan and UK without much in the way of warranty cover. In the Consumer NZ's 2017 survey of car owners, the Nissan LEAF rated highest in terms of reliability and owner satisfaction.....and most of those cars wouldn't be covered by any local warranty.  

Can electric cars drive far enough to be practical?


Range can be a very emotive topic, and is frequently used by non-EVdrivers as being an insurmountable problem that prevents them considering buying an EV.

The first Nissan Leafs have a range of 90-130 kilometers, depending on age, and all manufacturers are pushing to get affordable cars with a range between 250 and 300 kilometers.  Again the cost of the EV bears a direct relationship with the range of the battery.  A Tesla Model S with a 90 kWh battery has a range of around 400 km.

In NZ very few drivers travel this far on a daily basis; in fact the average daily drive is about 30km, and only a very small percentage drive over 100 km/day. So as a second car in a family, an EV run-around makes so much sense! Anecdotally when a family gets an EV as a second car, it quickly becomes the main town car, and the 'bigger, petrol' car becomes the out-of-town holiday driving car!

For the infrequent occasions when a long-distance drive is needed, and time is so critical that stopping to charge en route is not considered, then that long distance drive can be done with a second car that is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), by access to vehicles in car-share services, or by renting or borrowing another vehicle.

In NZ the charging network is now well established - see the Smartphone App PLUGSHARE - and any journey can be planned to include charging when natural breaks for food or toilets are required.

How long does it take to charge a plug-in car?


Think about charging your car just like you think about charging your cell phone. Most people charge their cars at home or work, just like a cell phone. Plug it in to a wall socket when you arrive and it will be ready for you in the morning, or the end of the work day.

The actual charging time depends on the size of your battery, and how full the battery is, as charging tapers off as the battery fills in a non-linear fashion. Keep in mind that most of the time, the battery will not be empty when you plug in.

As a general guide, there's only two types of "fuel" for electric cars: AC and DC.
AC uses the car's onboard charger and is therefore slower. All chargers whether AC or DC are limited by the amperage of the electricity supply, and also the maximum capability of the car's battery, and battery management system.

Charger Types  Description Range Added
Mode1/Level 1 AC 120V Power Point not available in NZ  
Mode2/Level 2 AC 230V Power Point, trickle charging 1.8 - 2.3 kW, requires portable EVSE ~10 km/hour*
Mode2/Level 2 AC 16amp blue commando Caravan Point 3.7 kW, requires portable EVSE up to 18 km/hr*
Mode3/Level 2 AC Home Wall Charger 3.6 - 7.2 kW, usually single phase up to 40 km/hr*
Mode3/Level 3 AC Destination/Fast Charger, businesses, carparks 11 - 22 kW, 3-phase, 415V, requires BYO cable (exception: Tesla Destination and legacy Type1 charge-points have tethered cables) 40 – 120 km/hr*
Mode4/Level 3 DC Fast Charger

25 kW, 60amp 3-phase, tethered cable

~100 km/hr

Mode4/Level 3 DC Rapid Charger

50 kW,** tethered cable

100 kW,** tethered cable

150 kW,** tethered cable


~40 km/10 minutes

~80 km/10 minutes

~180 km/15 minutes


DC Ultra-Rapid Charger, Public only 350 kW,** tethered cable ~400 km/15 minutes
Wireless charging not available in NZ  

* limited by the onboard AC to DC rectifier

** limited by the battery capability to accept a high charge rate, some vehicles may not be able to access the maximum kW for part or all of the charge.

Is plugging in a hassle?


Not at all – it takes less than five seconds, and there’s no going out of your way to a gas station,  jockeying for a pump, and getting toxic petrol on your hands. You can charge anywhere there is an electric outlet. Most EV drivers plug in when they get home.

Where do you recharge a plug-in vehicle?


One of the best things about an electric car is the ability to charge cheaply at home overnight, and therefore remove the need to go out of the way to visit a petrol station.  All EVs can charge by plugging into an ordinary 3-pin, 10amp plug, and EVs should be sold with a charging cable which can do this.

While most people recharge overnight in their garage, carport, driveway or at work, there will be times when you need to visit a public charging station. Find a public EV charging station here

There are two types of light vehicle public charging station, which require two different fittings on your vehicle. One is AC (alternating current), and the other is DC (direct current).

DC Charging is a faster way to fill your battery, but the associated costs involved in installing DC charging stations means that this service is usually not free. Still it is a lot cheaper than petrol. These DC stations ought only to be used if you cannot charge at home so that you do not block them from travellers who depend on them. There are currently over 150 of these stations around New Zealand, and some do require you to have opened an account with the service provider before you can use them. You can not use your own cable at these stations (exception is the Tesla adaptor). Charging time is roughly around 25 minutes per 100km depending on circumstances.

There are hundreds of AC chargers around the country and these are usually free to use, but may have parking limits. Most require you to bring your own cable, and this will be a different cable to the one you use in a 3-pin plug. Charging is a lot faster than can be accomplished on a 3-pin plug too, but generally requires at least an hour to get a worthwhile charge. For that reason, they are usually installed in places where you are likely to be parked for a while, such as motels, malls, parking buildings, supermarkets. Wellington City Council is trialing street pole chargers.

If importing a vehicle yourself, be sure that it complies with our national public charging standards, which are as follows:

DC - CHAdeMO or CCS-2
AC - Type 2 (Mennekes)

Some EVs have both AC and DC charging options. Others only have AC.

How much does it cost to charge a plug-in vehicle?


Much less than it costs to buy petrol. Exactly how much depends on the vehicle and electricity rates. On average, it costs less than $5 to charge a plug-in hybrid and $5-$10 for an all-electric car. Your overall energy bill will be lowered by driving with electricity.

Can you charge two cars at once at a ChargeNet station?

Why are there two cables and two carparks at ChargeNet rapid charging stations if you can only use one of them?


All of the ChargeNet DC 25kW and 50kW chargers only have one charger in the station. This means they can only charge one vehicle at a time. Both cables must be replaced in the holdster before a new charging session can start.

DC chargers have two cables and often have two carparks to both support the two official NZ DC charging protocols (CHAdeMO & CCS2) and charging port locations on the vehicles. The second car park can also be used by an EV waiting to charge. Unless you are waiting to charge, or charging, you may not park in a ChargeNet charging spot indicated by the official EV signage painted on the concrete.  You may leave your vehicle while charging, but must not leave your vehicle if you are waiting to charge and parked in a ChargeNet carpark. If leaving while charging, you must remain in the vicinity so you can be back before charging finishes.

Some other DC charging providers in NZ (such as WEL Networks) do occasionally offer a station which also supports AC charging. Where this is the case, a car may also slow charge, while either of the DC cables are in use. Some charging providers also support queuing where a plugged in car will start charging once the other connection has finished. Stations that support this are rare.

Aren't plug-in cars expensive?


On first glance the initial cost of buying either a full BEV or a PHEV can look very expensive indeed. It is still a new variant of transport, and all manufacturers have invested heavily into producing such vehicles. Sales volumes are therefore still small, but increasing year on year.

In NZ where we are very used to buying second-hand Japanese cars, the cheapest EV available on the market is a second hand Nissan Leaf and prices can be as low as $12,000. At the other end of the scale a brand new Tesla Model S starts at around $120,000. So the price graph is wide, and therefore hopefully anyone can find a price that is justifiable for their circumstances.

When buying a petrol car, few people consider the on-going costs of fuel and maintenance.

In fact the more kilometers you drive, the more money you save when driving an EV. As a rule of thumb charging at home on overnight rates gives you 'electric fuel' at roughly a sixth the cost of fossil fuel petrol.

Hence, over the life of an EV, the total cost of ownership can work out better than buying an ICE car - and you have contributed no CO2 to the environment! This is a win-win situation! 


Which charging station should I buy?

I've bought an EV and now I'm wondering how to charge it at home or work.


You do not need to install a specialised home charger (mode 3 or 4) for your EV provided you have a charging supply cable (EVSE - mode 2) with a 3-pin plug at one end. This can be used to charge your car from any 10amp electrical socket in the country. Please note that these have a protection device situated no further than 300mm from the 3-pin plug. It is important to protect the "live" end from the electric socket to the protection device, and for this reason it is not recommended that you use an extension cord.

* The actual charger is inside your vehicle and every model of EV will have its own maximum speed at which the charger can accept power. What this means in practice is that the average low-range car can fully charge overnight on a std NZ 3-pin power socket.

If you have purchased a long-range vehicle you may not find a mode-2 charging method adequate, unless you are prepared to do small top-ups rather than cycling through the full battery (not recommended.) In this case, you may need to install a dedicated wall charger*. Indeed some premium models come with a dedicated wall charging point as an optional extra.

Even with a powerful wall charger, your EV will still only charge at the maximum rate that its onboard charger can handle. ie: if your car can accept a maximum of 18A, it's pointless installing a 32Amp charging point unless you are future-proofing.  Whatever size of battery you have, an ideal starting point is to choose a dedicated home charging point that will charge your entire battery overnight.  This also means that you can get a decent top-up in just a couple of hours.

Most of these wall chargers will work on single phase just fine, although some are manufactured for 3-phase power. 

Visit our list of EVSE dealers. Many EV dealerships can also supply charging equipment. Check with your dealer for recommendations or ask in your local EV Owners Facebook group.

In New Zealand, it is not permitted to use or allow the use of a Mode 2 supply for public charging for an electric vehicle, which in practice means a business needs to install a wall or column AC Charge Point. If you are intending to provide a public charging station or a staff charging station, we recommend you talk to reputable, specialist charging device dealers, such as Schneider, Jacksons, Delta, and echarge. We also recommend you read the Worksafe Guidelines.

DC Charging stations are unnecessary and cost prohibitive for most work carparks. If you do wish to install a DC charger, we recommend you contact ABB, or the NZ Veefil agents: ChargeNet NZ Ltd. ChargeNet have a user billing system whereby the cost of the electricity supplied and maintenance can be recovered.

What about hydrogen cars?


It's possible they are the future, but they're not yet the present. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs) have many difficult and expensive engineering challenges to solve before they will ever be widely available, and even then, the energy required per km will probably continue to be substantially higher than for EVs.

We asked NZ scientist Thomas Everth, for his evaluation.

"Hydrogen is not the "most abundant resource" in the universe from the perspective of humanity. In fact, if you tried to find free hydrogen anywhere on the planet, you would struggle. Free Hydrogen is highly reactive. Therefore almost all of it is already oxidized H2O here on planet Earth, and no electro-chemical energy can be extracted from it.

"Hydrogen from the perspective of being a resource for energy is useless unless it's free, reduced to its atomic or molecular H2 form. And doing so requires energy. At least as much as one gets back when oxidizing it back to H2O again, and, in fact, significantly more so, because the processes to reduce H2O to H2 and O2 are inefficient.

"Chemically bound Hydrogen is like a spent battery. It has no use unless it's charged again. Charging a BEV battery is highly efficient. Well over 90% efficiency. Charging - read reducing - H2O back to H2 and O2 is significantly less efficient. And it doesn't end there. The energy in your EV battery is ready to let rip... The H2 produced at some electrolysis plant must be compressed, shipped, stored, dispensed, stored again, and finally while being oxidized again, electricity must be extracted to drive your car."

Overall the efficiency will struggle to get far beyond 20%...only slightly more efficient than a fossil fuelled internal combustion engine. Compared to a BEV with over 70% efficiency, FCV cannot compete with green electricity from the grid.

What this means is that if you have a limited amount of renewable electricity, you are much better putting it into directly charging via battery, just based purely on what you get out of it, compared to hydrogen. Hydrogen produced with renewable electricity is extremely expensive and in limited supply world-wide, meaning it cannot compete with fossil fuel (petrol/diesel) pricing at the pump either. Currently the majority of H2 is produced from natural-gas/methane CH4 which is also a fossil fuel.

The cost and footprint of a hydrogen recharging station is much greater than a battery electric vehicle charging station. In fact at today's prices you could install 40 EV charging stations for the same price as 1 FCV station, and that doesn't include the infrastructure required to get the H2 to the FCV station. Electricity infrastructure is already in place at most locations.

The main promoters of FCV are Toyota, Hyundai and Honda. Yet they have made very little progress towards bringing a product to the world-wide market. Meanwhile, BEVs are now being produced that can recharge at a public station at a comparable time rate to filling with petrol, and this technology is promised for NZ in 2020 with a gradual rollout.

The Better NZ Trust does not endorse Fuel Cell technology, as we feel that given the above points, limited R&D resources are better spent improving EVs than wasted on FCV.


Graphic courtesy of European Federation for Transport and Environment

Original text (before the graphic) courtesy of Thomas Everth, MSc (Physics), researcher "climate education"

Is the quiet nature of electric vehicles a hazard?


Electric vehicles aren’t completely silent, although the lack of engine noise takes a little getting used to!

When driving slowly in carparks an EV makes some noise, primarily from the tyres, but it is true that as an EV driver, paying attention to pedestrians is of high importance.  Reversing in an EV, like most ICE cars, has a warning beep to alert pedestrians, and most EVs have warning noises for any obstacle in their forward path, both solid and human. 

At very high speeds, the wind and tyre noise is comparable to any car.

Do plug-in vehicles emit electromagnetic radiation?


Data suggest there are no harmful electromagnetic emissions from plug-in cars. There is no broad agreement in the United States over what level of exposure to electromagnetic fields may constitute a health hazard, and there are no federal standards for allowable exposure levels. Two reports from the United States show that electric cars and buses have lower electromagnetic fields than conventional gasoline cars.

Does it make sense to put solar panels or wind turbines on an EV?


Putting solar photovoltaics (PV) directly on EVs would be nice but likely not adequate. Most solar panels would add too much weight. Some newer, lighter and flexible PV technology could generate power for interior climate control or minor tasks, but not enough to power a car a significant distance. Furthermore, cars are often parked in garages or under carports, where sunlight won’t reach.

Likewise, windmills on EVs don’t make sense. The drag they create reduces efficiency, necessitating more energy to run the car. However, EVs can be charged with electricity that is generated from solar panels and wind turbines.

What about putting stationary solar panels on your house or business? That is a great idea. Fixed panels can be set up so that they’re not obstructed, and angled optimally to the sun. And fixed wind turbines can work wonderfully as well.

Can I charge a plug-in car with solar or wind power?


The cleaner the power, the cleaner the car. Using solar photovoltaics (PV) at your home or business makes even more sense with a plug-in car. The investment in solar panels pays off faster when the solar power is not only replacing grid electricity but also replacing much more expensive gasoline. EVs typically can’travel 4-8 km (or more) per kWh of electricity. If you drive 19,000 km per year, you will need 3,000-4,000 kWh. Depending on where you live, you will need a 1.5kW-3kW PV system to generate that much power using about 14-28 square meters of space on your roof.

Where do batteries end up? In landfills? Or recycled?


Vehicle batteries have an excellent recycling record that will get even better with plug-in vehicles. Every car in the world has a lead-acid battery. Even with its low value as scrap, the national recycling rate for lead-acid batteries is about 98 percent. Plug-in vehicles mostly use lithium ion, which is much more valuable than lead. Their inherent value will ensure that they are recycled. Some car makers are exploring “second-life” applications for used EV batteries as well including adding them to a house hold solar system.
Now that EV's have been around for while manufacturers are learning the batteries last longer than they expected.

For more information: https://www.leadingthecharge.org.nz/what_happens_to_old_ev_batteries

How often do you have to replace the batteries?


Not for many years. GM, Tesla and Nissan offer warranties covering eight years or 100,000 miles of driving on the lithium-ion batteries in their vehicles. In the States Plug In America is conducting surveys of battery life among EV drivers, and all battery manufacturers are working hard to get more 'bang for your buck' in terms of battery cells - as range is seen as the foremost problem with driving an EV. Different chemistry solutions for batteries are also being explored as an alternative to lithium -ion, and several ideas for the catalytic elements are being investigated. You can learn about survey results or participate here.

Will plug-in cars lead to more coal or gas power plants?



The existing electric grid’s off-peak capacity for power generation is sufficient to power 73 percent of commutes to and from work by cars, light trucks, SUVs and vans without building a single new power plant. In NZ we are very fortunate to have 80% of our power needs delivered via renewable generation - wind, solar and hydro - with little coming from the older coal fired stations. This percentage can only increase as the impact of CO2 emissions make us think in a more clever way to mitigate the problems CO2 cause the planet.

There is a big push to develop systems that allow existing nighttime electricity be stored in EV batteries and retrieved during peak-demand hours.  Such vehicle-to-grid technology will revolutionise the provision of power, helping to meet society’s daytime power needs.

New Zealand has consents for enough renewable energy sources to power every vehicle in NZ if they converted to electricity at a stroke. In fact household electricity use has flattened in the past decade as we all switch to LED lighting and more efficient whiteware.

Internationally, the OECD countries are mostly all striving to meet their Paris Agreement emissions targets by 2050. These include massive increases in renewable electricity generation. Countries, like China and Germany, that traditionally had dirty grids are making giant strides to clean up their act. In addition, part of the Paris Agreement calls for OECD countries to lend technology and resources to non-OECD countries to help them reduce their emissions too.

What about pollution?


Battery electric vehicles do not have an exhaust system and tail pipe because they produce no emissions into the atmosphere. As a comparison an internal combustion engine (ICE) SUV would emit approximately 4.5 tons of CO2 per year, if it drove 10,000 kilometres.

Do we have enough Rare Earth Metals for EVs?

It's important to distinguish between: 'rare-', 'precious-', and 'critical-' earth elements. The terms are not interchangeable, but unfortunately often are in popular media.  It's also important to distinguish between 'reserves' and 'resources'. Reserves denote the amount that can be technically recovered at a cost that is financially feasible at the present price. Resources include all that can be technically recovered at any price. 


Electric vehicles typically use two precious earth metals: gold and silver. These are used in minute quantities in the circuit boards, which also occurs in modern fossil fuelled vehicles. The circuit boards run the electronics. These valuable metals are fully recyclable.


Critical earth elements typically found in Electric Vehicle batteries are: lithium and cobalt, both fully recyclable (including in NZ.) Both Lithium and cobalt metals can be reused over and over repeatedly.

These two elements are not particularly rare – cobalt can be found in most rocks, and lithium is the first metal in the periodic table and one of only three elements created in the primordial Big Bang. Lithium is the 32nd most common element on our planet. But both metals are critical because of modern societies' dependence on lithium-ion battery technology for mobile phones, laptops, and now EVs. And also, in the case of cobalt, because of geopolitics: the bulk of the cobalt supply comes from the politically unstable Democratic Republic of Congo. While there are plenty of lithium and cobalt resources, there are fewer reserves of them.

Cobalt is a byproduct of nickel and copper mines, and is therefore dependent on the economic viability of those mining operations.

Worldwide sources of lithium are broken down by ore-deposit type as follows: closed-basin brines, 58%; pegmatites and related granites, 26%; lithium-enriched clays, 7%; oilfield brines, 3%; geothermal brines, 3%; and lithium-enriched zeolites, 3% (2013 statistics USGS). Of those, closed basin brines are the most important source of lithium reserves.

Put simplistically, dissolved lithium salts are most commonly mined by drilling down to underground saline deposits and pumping the saline to the surface where it is left to dry in the desert sun, before being processed into lithium metal (and other elements, like Potash and Magnesium.) Typically they don't pump hot fresh water into the deposits — that's a different process used to dissolve the rock salts in an alternative method of potash mining. 


Rare earth elements, such as neodymium, terbium, or dysprosium, are found in a permanent magnet motor. Not all EVs use permanent magnet motors. Induction motors are based on copper coils.

“Some electric car motors use the permanent magnet technology, probably the most famous is the Tesla Model 3 Long Range. All the other Tesla models — Model X and Model 3 standard — use induction motors,” said David Merriman, a senior analyst at metals consultancy Roskill.

Other parts of an EV

Other parts of an EV may use rare earths to produce, eg: aluminium. But a traditional car is just as likely to be full of all the same components, eg: steel, plastics, epoxies, circuit boards, carbon fibre, glass, nickel, copper, lead acid battery, etc.  

So, when the argument comes up that Electric Vehicles use rare earth metals, the nay-sayers often conveniently forget that the status quo (ie: fossil fuelled vehicles) is no better, and probably worse, in this respect.

Earth Elements used in Fossil Fuelled Cars that are not used in BEVs

In comparison, we must also remember that fossil fuelled internal combustion engines also use precious and rare earth metals. The catalytic converter, whose job it is to reduce nasty emissions from exhaust, use palladium, rhodium, cerium, and/or platinum.

in addition, oil refining uses rare earths, such as lanthanum (and critical elements such as cobalt.)

But what about the auto manufacturing process: electricity from coal, etc?

Unlike traditional auto factories, many electric vehicle auto makers are currently in the process of transforming their factories to use only green energy and green electricity.  (eg: VW, BMW, Tesla) According to an EECA study, total emissions from production and destruction of light passenger vehicles (not counting the life of the vehicle) is 20% less for battery electric vehicles (BEV) over internal combustion engine vehicles, world wide. That's a worthwhile saving.

Critical Resource Reserves

According to OPEC, at the end of 2018 there was a worldwide reserve of just under 1,500 billion barrels of crude oil. According to Statista.com, the world consumption rate of crude oil is 36,719 million barrels per year (2019 projection.) This equates to about 40 years of crude oil (oil & gas hydrocarbons) left in reserves. 

In comparison, according to USGS*, there were 13,919 million metric tons of lithium reserves at the end of 2018. By 2025, estimated predictions are that we'll be consuming 422,614 metric tons of lithium-carbonate-equivalent annually (up from 212,719 tons in 2016.) Even if we ended up using twice as much as those predictions, we'd still have plenty of reserves. However, despite the reserves, production is not keeping up with demand, according to some (unsourced) publications.

*USGS: United States Geological Survey government department.
OPEC: The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, an intergovernmental organisation of 14 nations
Statista.com: a German online portal for statistics, which collates data derived from market and opinion research institutes, the economic sector, and official international governmental statistics

What if my question is not answered here?


If you can't find an answer to your question here, or on the search page,

You can ask a question here.


Showing 3 reactions

  • Sean Dick
    published this page in Info 2016-08-23 04:43:43 +1200
  • Paul Arnold
    followed this page 2016-07-21 12:23:10 +1200
  • Sean Dick
    published this page in Info 2016-06-23 17:14:28 +1200