Vulnerability in move to electric cars | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Accelerating fuel price, burgeoning plastic and climate change news is prompting everyone to look for ways to save the environment before it is too late. One of the best ways perhaps is the adoption of electric vehicles (EV), which is making fuel redundant and curbing carbon emissions. It helps that governments are enforcing regulations on automakers, offering subsidies, and investing in public charging infrastructure. However, this new way of life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.  

While the world, governments, and environmental enthusiasts have been endorsing prevalent use of electric vehicles, they have perhaps failed to realize the darker aspects of these electric vehicles in their complacency. After all, every coin has two sides and electric vehicles are no exception. 

As per the Advance Market Analytics report, the global electric car market is set to experience a growth rate of 21.1%.  Hence, it has become highly essential to get acquainted with all vulnerabilities behind electric cars and how we could wrestle with them, and emerge triumphant in our quest to a greener and all-electric transport. 

The Problem with Battery 

The biggest hurdle in embracing electric vehicles is their battery. After all, nobody wants to run out of charge in the middle of nowhere only to find out that a gas station cannot rescue them. Also, charging electric vehicles take an eternity as compared to pumping gas.

Electric automakers and researchers are going high and low to address these issues, which resulted in a recent breakthrough by the Penn State University that has come up with a new battery design that could reduce battery charge time from an hour to 10 minutes. Amazon has also won a patent for a drone that could rescue stranded electric vehicles and charge them on the go. Although, Amazon hasn’t expressed any plans to dive into the EV market yet and has been prominent only for its fleet of electric delivery vans, which it will acquire from Rivian. Electric automakers like Tesla, Volkswagen, Vauxhall, Renault, BMW, BYD, Nissan, and Mercedes have been striving to achieve better battery life and convenience for the mass market, but it looks like that the Penn State professors have beaten them to it. 

With better battery, we need more charging stations to keep up with the rising demand of electric vehicles. A study by consumer protection charity Electrical Safety First discovered that due to insufficient charging infrastructure, a whopping 74% electric vehicle owners would resort to charging their cars via less safe means at their homes, which would expose them to dangers of electric shock or even fire.  

Are Electric Vehicles Vulnerable To Hackers?

A research report from New York University Tandon School of Engineering revealed that plug-in electric vehicles and charging stations could be at risk of cyber-attacks, making urban power grids exceedingly vulnerable.  Vehicles utilizing charging stations carry data like charging time, location, and average power charge at each station. Information like this is crucial in aiding cybercriminals to orchestrate a malicious attack on a targeted charging station.  Back in 2015, a power grid in Ukraine was struck with an elaborate cyber-attack and a recent attack on a domestic power grid in the US confirms accuracy of the report. 

These aren’t the only warnings; last year, Kaspersky Labs discovered that car chargers supplied by a certain vendor were receptive to cyber-attacks and compromised home security, enabling hackers to force their way into W-Fi network and disrupt operations or launch a malicious attack on anything that connected to the network such as an electric vehicle. 

Although, we can secure our networks with a reliable provider like windstream, it has become cardinal for us to probe contemporary innovations.

Behind the Scenes of EV 

Pressure on automakers is increasing due to environmental threats and EV demand, making them amp up their EV production, which is not always ethical.  

EV manufacturing requires scarce metal resources in its manufacturing like Cobalt, whose profuse deposits are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, graphite, whose 80% of global supply is dominated by China, Manganese, which is solely mined in 6 countries taking up 90% of global share led by South Africa and followed by China. Nickel from Indonesia and Lithium in 4 countries encompassing 80% of world’s supply including China. 

The hegemony of a few players in the supply of critical metals could drastically impact prevalence of EV tech. Tesla itself has faced supply shortages, forcing it to delay the production of many of its models. 

Many resource-rich countries have authoritarian or hybrid regimes, enabling them to solely manipulate markets to their advantage, such as China’s rare earth weapon in trade wars dispute and Indonesia’s curb on Nickel’s exports. Also, it has given way to unethical practices as powerful organizations ally themselves with those governments in order to enrich their business.

Electric vehicles come with unique risks and possibilities and we need to find innovative approaches to tackle them efficaciously.