Governments all over Europe are rushing in technology that will use up limited natural resources, produce enormous levels of unsustainable waste, and whose production is likely to utilise child labour.
But some of the world's biggest mining companies are set to make fortunes from mass production of batteries to power electric cars.
Electric cars are being promoted under the banner of “environmentalism” as a “clean, green” technology that will not pollute the air that we breathe.
The UK government is to outlaw petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and according to a report last month in Autocar magazine, vehicles unable to travel more than 50 miles using electric power, including dual-fuel hybrids, could also be outlawed by that date.
Photo by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz
The Scottish National Party (SNP), currently in power in Scotland, has announced plans to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2032.
Paris and Rome are to ban all diesel cars by 2024, and the city of Oxford in the UK is to ban all petrol and diesel cars from its city centre by 2020- less than two years away.
This might all sound very environmentally friendly, however mass production of electric cars is anything but "green". Most electric cars are powered by lithium-ion batteries similar to the ones that power our mobile phones and tablets, only much larger.
Lithium-ion batteries are produced using rare earth metals like cobalt, lithium carbonite and graphite. These metals are found in just a few places on earth, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where around 65% of the world's supply of cobalt is extracted. As many as 40,000 children are believed to be employed in mining in the DRC, some of them as young as seven.
Lithium-ion batteries run a greater fire risk than lead-acid batteries, as they use a flammable electrolyte. Some manufacturing firms are trying to develop batteries that use alternative metals, but the race to replace petrol and diesel-powered vehicles with electric ones appears to be paying little heed to these concerns.
Lithium-ion batteries have a life expectancy of 10 years, or 150,000 miles. The cost of replacing them is likely to be around 40% of the cost of the vehicle when new.
The cost to the earth could be considerably greater, as little thought has been given the disposal of the used batteries. Most lithium in Europe is either dumped in landfill or incinerated, with just 5% collected for recycling.
However companies like Canadian First Cobalt, and the UK's Glencore, which controls almost a third of the global annual supply of cobalt, are likely to make fortunes out of the global push for electric motor transport, with the world lithium-ion market expected to be worth more than $74bn by 2024.
Batteries need to be charged, even lithium-ion ones. Where's the electricity to charge all these cars going to come from? More wind farms? Nuclear power stations? Governments are already struggling to fulfil their renewable energy targets. The number of cars in the UK alone is almost 32 million. Providing sufficient electricity to power this number of vehicles is going to be some feat.
Unless people can be persuaded to stop travelling...
Taxation and increasingly high parking fees are already being used to discourage people from driving in city centres. Taxation is being used to reduce the number of high emission vehicles. I expect that various types of tax will be used to try and stop people travelling by car.
With public transport already increasingly expensive, we will probably see more proposals to encourage people to stay in the cities and to travel increasingly less. An article recently published in the Guardian newspaper suggests that restrictions to air travel and private transport may indeed be considered as part of the UK government's zero carbon policy.
Electric cars have been around for over a century. They could have been introduced decades ago, in a more gradual, sustainable manner, alongside other types of vehicle propulsion.
Electric vehicles are ideal for getting around city centres, while other types of technology could be used for travelling greater distances. That approach might ease the burden on the world's resources while also reducing emissions.
But it might not have allowed fortunes to be made from more mass production, and by multinational mining companies and their CEOs.
It wouldn't have presented an excuse for more taxation and new controls of our city centres, or "smart" toll roads.
It wouldn't have allowed a few people to make vast profits out of very unenvironmentally-friendly "greenwashing" policies.