How Do Electric Cars Fit In?  

Our nascent Climate Action Committee has been contemplating an electric car charger as one possible wish-list item for the Radnor Meeting House. The electric vehicle (EV) represents the future of cars. Approvals for EV tax credits in multiple countries are meant to bring this future closer. The availability of $25-35K electric cars will also accelerate the shift.

Yet, as some Friends have noted, electrification is not a cure-all. Nor will EVs bridge the gulf between car-focused households and the communities that require better public transit options. Then there’s cobalt extraction for EV batteries—and the human-rights implications.

A Key Question

Homes are now appearing with charging equipment and Tesla cars as part of the deal. Some real estate developers call this a model for sustainable, large-scale housing projects. Yet with more development and more cars, the sustainability of it all will become increasingly questionable.

The China-based CATL is building new lithium-ion factories to supply batteries for Tesla and others. The extraction of lithium uses up water and damages ecosystems. (Tesla is not the only EV car company consuming rare earth metals, but it is the most prominent U.S. electric car company.)

To expand driving routes, EVs are even going underground. Tunnel-making for more cars (rather than subways) isn’t an environmentally friendly idea. It releases CO₂ and disrupts fragile bio-communities. Companies’ cheap access to federal lands is another problem embedded in the push to renewables. In research and development, Tesla overlaps with the SpaceX company. In the big picture, SpaceX equips the U.S. military—the embodiment of a fragmented humanity that desperately needs self-improvement here on Earth.

So, a key question becomes whether we can figure out how to share and reduce our energy use in substantial ways, rather than look to for-profit corporations to define sustainability.

Simply Responding to Climate Crisis

When profits are paramount, innovation encourages more resource use. Better policymaking can be offered. Integrity and all other Quaker values call on us to focus on simplicity. The simplest concepts could well be the most effective in addressing our climate crisis. We could:

  • Reduce our discretionary driving mileage.
  • Press for walkable and bikeable towns, improved public transit, and reduced reliance on roadbuilding.
  • Divest ourselves from animal agribusiness, with its high carbon and methane emissions, its waste runoff, and its indifference to aware beings. This will help promote the direct use of land to grow human food—as opposed to allocating it to the global feed markets that create economic dependencies and usurp far more space than humanity needs.
  • Press lawmakers to incentivize compact, low-energy architecture and place solar systems on roofs (not in fragile ecosystems).

These and similar commitments offer potential for protecting Earth’s climate and habitat. They are applications of restorative, simplicity-focused principles.

All this said, an EV charger would be timely and good to have. Yet we know there is so much more to think about, and deeper questions that need to be asked and answered.

Lee H., Radnor Friends Climate Action Committee

Photo credit: Vadim B., via