Lithium replaces a staggering range of toxic and damaging substances--fracking fluids, refinery pollution, crude oil leaks, gasoline and diesel fuel, MTBE and other additives, oil lubricant, transmission fluid, grease, lead batteries, and vehicle air pollutants in the form of particulates, NOx, VOCs, and greenhouse gases. Also, electric vehicles tend to use electromagnetic brakes so energy can be recovered, reducing the use and general dispersion of hazardous asbestos on and near roads.
It is also important to put the lithium in perspective. Lithium itself is only about 1% to 2% of the weight of a lithium battery. Also, unlike a lead battery where the lead is exposed to the outside through the posts, posing a direct hazard to the environment and anyone who handles it, the lithium is sealed inside the unit and does not get regularly exposed to the elements when in use.
The potential indirect and direct adverse effects of lithium batteries should be mitigated by converting the electricity to clean and renewable sources, reducing driving, more efficient electric vehicles (equivalent to better mpg--this is too often overlooked), better and safer lithium battery design, and recycling the materials.
It is anticipated that EV demand for lithium ion batteries won’t exceed demand for other lithium ion battery uses until 2022: