In this video from December 2013, which Lenz Blog unearthed from YouTube, SolarCity Chair and Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk explains why he thinks the large-scale manufacturing of lithium-ion battery packs is going to be sustainable. Lithium-ion batteries are currently used in many products, including in electric cars and for solar power storage.
Recently, Tesla announced a plan to build a “Gigafactory” to make massive amounts of lithium-ion batteries, primarily for Tesla’s growing range of increasingly popular electric cars. At the time of the announcement, I mentioned that it’s debatable whether or not the massive production of lithium-ion batteries for energy storage will be entirely sustainable, even if it is preferable to fossil fuels.
Musk explains that he thinks the important thing to bear in mind with batteries is that, “there really is no material shortage. The Earth’s crust has essentially an infinite amount of metal, as far as humanity is concerned. We have barely scratched the surface of the metal resource availability of the Earth’s crust. And this is a very fundamentally different thing from mining coal or oil because metal is recycled. So once you have enough metal to support a given size of industry, then it just keeps going in a recycling process. There may be a small amount that exits through a recycling process, but it’s quite a small amount.”
On the issue of the possibility of 100% renewable energy, Musk says that, apart from environmental concerns, fossil fuels are definitely going to run out eventually, so the world must move to renewable energy. It’s just a question of how hard we should try and at what pace we should go. He states that, “logically, we should go as fast as we can because, since we know we have to get there eventually, it’s better to get to a renewable future, a sustainable future, sooner rather than later; get there before we do the environmental damage, not after. Even if one could say that there is not going to be that much environmental damage, playing devil’s advocate, maybe the environmental damage won’t be that bad: why take the chance?”