Sometimes, you just can’t win.
You’d expect a country that’s embracing electric bicycles as an alternative to cars to be lauded as an environmental savior. But scale – scale has a way of undoing our best intentions. So, when40 million Chinese pick up battery-powered bikes, people (like the writers at LiveScience) just have to ask – “So where is all the lead going?”:
I found that electric bikes travel about 35 percent faster than bicycles and have a much larger range. In the city of Kunming, an electric bike can access 60 percent more jobs within 20 minutes than a traditional bicycle. Compared to a 30-40 minute bus ride, an electric bike rider can access three to six times the number of jobs.
While this increase in mobility is remarkable, this mobility does come at a cost, namely increased lead pollution from battery use.
Electric bikes use one car-sized lead acid battery per year. Each battery represents 30-40 percent of its lead content emitted to the environment in the production processes, resulting in about 3 kilograms of lead emitted per battery produced. When scaled up the 40 million electric bikes currently on the roads, this is an astonishing amount of lead emitted into the environment.