Under the lead of an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Tokyo Electric Power Company is working out next-gen car battery norms. It has developed a specification for high-voltage DC automotive fast charging using a JARI Level 3 DC connector, and formed the CHΛdeMO (stands for Charge and Move) association with Japanese automakers Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota to promote it. Although you may be convinced that driving an electric car is eco-friendlier than a conventional one because of the low-level of CO2 expelled, I suggest that you think twice.
Battery industry is a large source of pollution in itself and recycling will pose serious environmental threats with lithium as a new source of cancers and permanent neurological damage in case of severe poisoning. Lithium ion batteries used in watches and gadgets are not always recycled properly but we are taking it to a next level with car batteries. A lot of so-called “green technologies” are based on using highly toxic elements like arsenic in semiconductors and the recycling is never really considered in the PLM (think of what becomes of outdated solar panels for instance). Electric powered cars are in fact nuclear cars, but so are electric appliances in our homes, so where is the problem? In countries like Japan, fossil fuels and renewable energies are sufficient to power the country, even without saving much in this wasteful nation of ever-running empty bullet trains and all night long lit up cities. If Japan was to use only nuclear cars, the demand for more energy would be so great that new nuclear plants would have to be built and old ones put back in operation. The amount of electric power for a car is much higher than to lit up your typical living room neon light: how many domestic appliances require 62,500 W of high-voltage DC current to charge? This is what CHΛdeMO delivers to nuclear cars made by Mitsubishi (i MiEV and Citroën C-ZERO in France, which is quite ironic since Mitsubishi also made ZERO fighter planes for kamikaze pilots during WWII – a practical joke by Mitsubishi marketing department to their French colleagues?), Nissan (several models including Leaf with Renault partnership) and Subaru (Stella).
As a summary, Lithium battery production is environmentally harmful, using them when you drive your car is the worse part because of significant increased nuclear power consumption and their recycling is a new kind of massive pollution ahead. The whole product life cycle is ecologically damaging.
TEPCO participation in the CHΛdeMO association makes perfect business sense. Ironically, CHΛdeMO, also spelled CHAdeMO (an abbreviation of “CHArge de MOve”, equivalent to “charge for moving”), is a pun for O cha demo ikaga desuka in Japanese, meaning “How about some tea” (while charging) in English – knowing that Japanese green tea was tested radio-positive in Shizuoka prefecture, we could politely answer Kekko desu, meaning “Thank you but no thank you”.
Faced to international competition, especially from South Korea, to a yen exchange rate that damage exports, to a dwindling domestic consumption combined with a oversaturated domestic market, Japanese automobile makers’ main hope is to regain leadership through innovative products such as these nuclear cars – so there is no backing up from this strategic policy, which means that they are bound to TEPCO for at least the next decade. Japanese media are subjected to this consortium: for instance Yomiuri Shimbun mainstream newspaper founder has been an active nuclear power supporter, is in some way partly responsible of the fate of Fukushima victims, and will never disavow TEPCO. Toyota represents a third of advertising budget in media so there is little chance that any negative press be published against nuclear cars.
“Green technologies” are often a marketing term to promote innovative and not so environmental friendly technologies, which has eventually a negative impact on the end-user. In another post, we showed that these companies are not concerned with their customers’ health (see further reading on SurvivalJapan below). On a personal level, I recommend boycotting any product affiliated, owned or developed in partnership with TEPCO.
Tokyo Electric Power Company has developed patented technology and a specification for high-voltage (up to 500 V DC) high-current (125 A) automotive fast charging via a JARI DC fast charge connector. It appears this is the basis for the CHAdeMO protocol.The connector is specified by the JEVS (Japan Electric Vehicle Standard) G105-1993 from the Japan Automobile Research Institute.
Although some other considerations should be taken into account, hybrid models like Honda Civic and Toyota Prius, which are equiped with Primearth EV Energy (PEVE) nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) battery packs, seem like a good compromise if you must really go for battery-powered cars. The company was known as Panasonic EV Energy Co until 2 June 2010. The company was formed in 1996 as a joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic, with Panasonic holding 60% of the capital. Panasonic sold 40.5% of the company to Toyota as a condition of purchasing Sanyo. Panasonic decided to reduce its stake in Panasonic EV Energy Co to speed up approval from anti-trust authorities in China and the U.S. The planned purchase of Sanyo would give Panasonic a market share of around 80% in nickel hydride batteries. In early 2011, it was reported that Prime Earth EV Energy would start mass-producing lithium batteries for plug-in hybrids of Toyota at a factory in Shizuoka Prefecture, south of Tokyo, Japan (where they grow radioactive green tea). There does not seem to be any tie between Primearth EV Energy and TEPCO, but batteries remain a dirty energy source and their plants are in the no man’s land (including in Miyagi prefecture next to Fukushima). They are also used by General Motors 2-mode hybrid system on Chevrolet Tahoe / GMC Yukon and will later be used on the Cadillac Escalade, GM 1/2-ton pickups and possibly other vehicles and hence you’ll be using contaminated products from Japan when driving these vehicles. Primearth EV Energy batteries contain each 1 kg of neodymium and 10 to 15 kg of lanthanum which will most likely be dumped in the wild like anything else when the battery has run its course.
Neodymium metal dust is a combustion and explosion hazard. Neodymium compounds, as with all rare earth metals, are of low to moderate toxicity; however its toxicity has not been thoroughly investigated. Neodymium dust and salts are very irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes, and moderately irritating to skin. Breathing the dust can cause lung embolisms, and accumulated exposure damages the liver.
Lanthanum has a low to moderate level of toxicity and should be handled with care. In animals, the injection of lanthanum solutions produces hyperglycaemia, low blood pressure, degeneration of the spleen and hepatic alterations. The application in carbon arc light led to the exposure of people to rare earth element oxides and fluorides, sometimes led to pneumoconiosis.
Besides the fact that these rare earth elements negative effects on health is relatively unknown, it is easy to see why Japan frets about Chinese blocking exports of rare earths as it could jeopardize the future envisioned by the Japanese automotive manufacturing industry. It also probably fuels the longing for nuclear weaponry in Japan as a way to balance negotiations. This, in turn, combined with current social unrest and economic uncertainty, pushes the country closer to its military staging a coup and changing the Japanese constitution.
In the end, purchasing a nuclear car is not an environmental friendly decision, rather more of a corporation choice: either you support the nuclear industry with these cars, or the oil industry with conventional ones. Nuclear power will destroy our world faster and with a higher probability than CO2 emissions – but you’re free to choose to be the new kamikaze pilots.
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