Monday, October 16, 2017

Menarcheal timing is accelerated by favorable nutrition but unrelated to developmental cues of mortality or familial instability

Menarcheal timing is accelerated by favorable nutrition but unrelated to developmental cues of mortality or familial instability in Cebu, Philippines. Moira A. Kyweluka et al. Evolution and Human Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.10.002

Abstract: Understanding the determinants of pubertal timing, particularly menarche in girls, is an important area of investigation owing to the many health, psychosocial, and demographic outcomes related to reproductive maturation. Traditional explanations emphasized the role of favorable nutrition in maturational acceleration. More recently, work has documented early maturity in relation to markers of familial and environmental instability (e.g. paternal absence), which are hypothesized to serve as cues triggering adaptive adjustment of life history scheduling. While these studies hint at an ability of human females to accelerate maturity in stressful environments, most have focused on populations characterized by energetic excess. The present study investigates the role of developmental nutrition alongside cues of environmental risk and instability (maternal absence, paternal absence, and sibling death) as predictors of menarcheal age in a well-characterized birth cohort born in 1983 in metropolitan Cebu, the Philippines. In this sample, which was marked by a near-absence of childhood overweight and obesity, we find that menarcheal age is not predicted by cues of risk and instability measured at birth, during childhood and early adolescence, but that infancy weight gain and measures of favorable childhood nutrition are strong predictors of maturational acceleration. These findings contrast with studies of populations in which psychosocial stress and instability co-occur with excess weight. The present findings suggest that infancy and childhood nutrition may exert greater influence on age at menarche than psychosocial cues in environments characterized by marginal nutrition, and that puberty is often delayed, rather than accelerated, in the context of stressful environments.

Keywords: Life history theory; Puberty; Reproductive timing; Human growth; Fertility milestones

Automated Driving: Use With Caution

Automated driving: Safety blind spots. Ian Y. Noy, David Shinar, William J. Horrey. Safety Science, Volume 102, February 2018, Pages 68–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssci.2017.07.018

Highlights
•    Automated driving has the potential to improve traffic safety in the long term.
•    For the foreseeable future, partially AD present unwitting consequences.
•    Drivers’ role will change and lead to potential confusion or traffic conflicts.
•    Human factors research is needed address new questions of partial automation.
•    Integration within the broader cyber-physical world is an emerging challenge.
•    This paper identifies areas that require explicit and urgent scientific exploration.

Abstract: Driver assist technologies have reached the tipping point and are poised to take control of most, if not all, aspects of the driving task. Proponents of automated driving (AD) are enthusiastic about its promise to transform mobility and realize impressive societal benefits. This paper is an attempt to carefully examine the potential of AD to realize safety benefits, to challenge widely-held assumptions and to delve more deeply into the barriers that are hitherto largely overlooked. As automated vehicle (AV) technologies advance and emerge within a ubiquitous cyber-physical world they raise additional issues that have not yet been adequately defined, let alone researched. Issues around automation, sociotechnical complexity and systems resilience are well known in the context of aviation and space. There are important lessons that could be drawn from these applications to help inform the development of automated driving. This paper argues that for the foreseeable future, regardless of the level of automation, a driver will continue to have a role. It seems clear that the benefits of automated driving, safety and otherwise, will accrue only if these technologies are designed in accordance with sound cybernetics principles, promote effective human-systems integration and gain the trust by operators and the public.

Keywords: Automated driving; Safety; Driver-vehicle interaction; Psychology; Autonomous vehicles

Criminal behavior transmission is strongest from mothers to daughters, then by mothers to sons, fathers to daughters, and fathers to sons

A systematic review and meta-analysis of the intergenerational transmission of criminal behavior. Sytske Besemer et al. Aggression and Violent Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2017.10.004

Highlights
•    This meta-analysis synthesized results for around 3 million children.
•    Risk for criminal behavior is roughly 2.4 times higher for kids with criminal parents.
•    Studies considering covariates show the risk to be about 1.8 times higher.
•    Transmission was strongest from mothers to daughters, lowest for fathers to sons.
•    Transmission appeared stronger for cohorts born after 1981.

Abstract: Children whose parents exhibit criminal behavior (CB) appear to have an increased risk of displaying CB themselves. We conducted a systematic review and pooled results from 23 samples in 25 publications (including 3,423,483 children) in this meta-analysis of intergenerational transmission of CB. On average, children with criminal parents were at significantly higher risk for CB compared with children without criminal parents (pooled OR = 2.4). Studies taking into account covariates also showed increased risk for CB (pooled OR = 1.8). Transmission was strongest from mothers to daughters, followed by mothers to sons, fathers to daughters, and fathers to sons. Moreover, transmission appeared stronger for cohorts born after 1981. When we examined methodological quality and other characteristics of studies, response rates, sample size, or use of official records vs. self- or other-reports of parental CB did not moderate outcomes. However, we found stronger transmission for samples that used convenience or case-control sampling, and in studies in which parental CB clearly preceded offspring CB. We discuss mechanisms underlying intergenerational transmission, including social learning, criminogenic environments, biological proneness, and criminal justice bias. Finally, we consider limitations and directions for future research as well as policy implications for breaking the cycle of intergenerational crime.

Keywords: Parental crime; Intergenerational transmission; Antisocial behavior; Criminal behavior; Longitudinal study

Education has positive impact on tax morale for net beneficiaries of the welfare state, &a negative one for net contributors

Education and tax morale. David Rodríguez-Justicia, Bernd Theilen. Journal of Economic Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joep.2017.10.001

Highlights
•    We analyse two channels through which education shapes tax morale.
•    Tax morale of net receivers of welfare state benefits increases with education.
•    Tax morale of net contributors to the welfare state decreases with education.
•    A fairer tax system and better institutions raise tax morale of the highly educated.

Abstract: While the determinants of tax morale have been widely studied in the literature, surprisingly, the fundamental influence of education on tax morale has yet to be investigated. Given the insights from the psychological and political science literature about the role of education in the formation of social values, in this paper, we analyze two channels through which education shapes tax morale. We find that education has a positive impact on tax morale for those individuals that are net beneficiaries of the welfare state, and a negative impact for those that are net contributors. Furthermore, our results indicate that the more highly educated because of their better knowledge on public affairs exhibit higher levels of tax morale in countries that have better quality public services, a fairer tax system and higher quality institutions.

JEL classification: H26; H52; I25
Keywords: Tax morale; Tax compliance; Education; Welfare state benefits; Trust in public institutions

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Rhesus macaques expect others to dynamically update their representations of unseen objects

What do monkeys know about others’ knowledge? Lindsey A. Drayton, Laurie R. Santos. Cognition, Volume 170, January 2018, Pages 201–208. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2017.10.004

Highlights
•    Monkeys expect others to track a hidden object during a rotational displacement task.
•    Monkeys do not show a curse of knowledge bias.
•    Results are consistent with the hypothesis that monkeys represent what others know.

Abstract: Recently, comparative psychologists have suggested that primates represent others’ knowledge states. Evidence for this claim comes from studies demonstrating that primates expect others to maintain representations of objects when those objects are not currently visible. However, little work has explored whether nonhuman primates expect others to share the more sophisticated kinds of object knowledge that they themselves possess. We therefore investigated whether primates attribute to others knowledge that is acquired through the mental transformation of a static object representation. Specifically, we tested whether rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) expected a human demonstrator to solve a difficult rotational displacement task. In Experiment 1, monkeys watched a demonstrator hide a piece of fruit in one of two boxes. The monkey and the demonstrator then watched the boxes rotate 180°. We found that monkeys looked longer when the demonstrator reached into the box that did not contain the fruit, indicating that they expected her to be able to track the fruit to its current location. In Experiment 2, we ruled out the possibility that monkeys simply expected the demonstrator to search for the food in its true location. When the demonstrator did not witness the rotation event, monkeys looked equally long at the two reaching outcomes. These results are consistent with the interpretation that rhesus macaques expect others to dynamically update their representations of unseen objects.

Keywords: Theory of mind; Knowledge representation; Comparative cognition; Object knowledge


Leaving late: Understanding the extent and predictors of college late departure

Leaving late: Understanding the extent and predictors of college late departure. Zachary Mabel, Tolani A. Britton. Social Science Research, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2017.10.001

Abstract: Research on college dropout has largely addressed early exit from school, even though a large share of students who do not earn degrees leave after their second year. In this paper, we offer new evidence on the scope of college late departure. Using administrative data from Florida and Ohio, we conduct an event history analysis of the dropout process as a function of credit attainment. Our results indicate that late departure is widespread, particularly at two- and open-admission four-year institutions. We estimate that 14 percent of all entrants to college and one-third of all dropouts completed at least three-quarters of the credits that are typically required to graduate before leaving without a degree. Our results also indicate that the probability of departure spikes as students near the finish line. Amidst considerable policy attention towards improving student outcomes in college, our findings point to promising new avenues for intervention to increase postsecondary attainment.

Keywords: Postsecondary completion; College dropout; Late departure; Human capital

How Disgust Becomes Law

Patrick, Carlton and Lieberman, Debra, How Disgust Becomes Law (August 24, 2017). Forthcoming in The Moral Psychology of Disgust, Nina Strohminger & Victor Kumar (Eds.), London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. https://ssrn.com/abstract=3025885

Abstract: This chapter provides a psychological examination of the many ways in which disgust permeates the law. Using an evolutionary lens, the chapter explores the various adaptive functions of disgust, and shows how those functions can be co-opted by psychological systems designed to generate and enforce moral norms. In doing so, the chapter also provides an explanation for why and how many of the behaviors we view as "disgusting" tend to become behaviors we label "wrong."

Keywords: evolutionary analysis in law, legal theory, disgust and the law, law and psychology, behavioral biology, morality, evolutionary psychology

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A second way that disgust is used by systems sensitive to alliance formation and group condemnation relates to communication. When individuals broadcast signals of disgust, they provide a means to infer the likelihood of alliance formation in the service of condemning a particular behavior. Personal disgust, when echoed by another person and then another person and then another, is a cue of mental alliance that can facilitate the formation of a coalition targeting particular individuals engaging in the disgust eliciting act. Disgust is not unique in this respect. Hearing the terms “I hate people who tailgate on the highway” can rally the troops as well. President Trump (and he is hardly the first) has continually attempted to incite fear and anger in an attempt to marginalize Mexicans seeking to immigrate to the US. These kinds of phrases give an indication of others’ willingness to form an alliance condemning others. In this way, disgust language and facial expressions can either be or not be actual felt disgust. One can personally feel disgust and communicate this, or one can merely use the language of disgust.

Disgust originates largely to reduce contact with foreigners, and the deviant or marginalized

Rottman, J., DeJesus, J. M., & Gerdin, E. (forthcoming). The social origins of disgust. In N. Strohminger & V. Kumar (Eds.), The moral psychology of disgust. London: Rowman & Littlefield. http://www.joshuarottman.com/publications.html

Despite being perfectly nutritious, consuming bugs is considered gross in many cultures [...] What is the function of such an irrational response, one that may continue to endanger the natural environment? Do people experience disgust toward insects because of perceived disease risks? Are people reacting to the reminder that they are eating an animal, in the same way that many people react negatively to eating a whole fish (with its head and eyes) compared to a fish fillet? We argue that social risks may instead be motivating this reaction. More broadly, moving beyond the example of entomophagy, we claim that disgust is much more deeply enmeshed in social and moral considerations than has been previously acknowledged. [...] In this chapter, we propose an alternative to the recurrent claim that disgust evolved for the sole purpose of facilitating the avoidance of toxins and infectious disease [...]

We do not deny that disease avoidance is a crucial element of disgust, but we believe that there is more to the story. We argue that a central component of the adaptive value of disgust lies in the motivation it provides for reducing contact with people who are considered to be deviant or marginalized, both for disease-related and reputation-related reasons (see Chudek and Henrich 2011, for a discussion of the adaptive function of social norms). We hereby introduce the “Social Origins” hypothesis as a crucial addition to the Physical Origins hypothesis to provide a more complete evolutionary account of disgust. According to our hypothesis, disgust originated largely as a functional response for preventing contact with foreigners or people acting in non-normative ways. This response serves a dual adaptive purpose: reducing human-borne illnesses and maintaining reputational status within one’s social group, either separately or simultaneously. Therefore, while avoiding pathogens is a crucial component of a full explanation of disgust’s origins and functions, we argue that simple disease avoidance was not the sole or even the primary driver of the evolution of disgust in humans.

Manipulating courtship opportunities made Drosophila pseudo. sing longer, faster, and fly and move faster

Mate choice intensifies motor signalling in Drosophila. Allan Debelle et al. Animal Behaviour, Volume 133, November 2017, Pages 169–187. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.09.014

Highlights
•    We experimentally increased or decreased sexual selection in Drosophila populations.
•    We perform an in-depth analysis of the response of a motor signal (pulse rate).
•    Polyandrous males sing at a faster rate and do so for longer than monogamous males.
•    Fast song rates are associated with overall increased male motor performance.
•    Increasing the opportunity for mate choice increased male motor performance.

Mate choice has the potential to act on the evolution of motor performance via its direct influence on motor sexual signals. However, studies demonstrating this are rare. Here, we performed an in-depth analysis of Drosophila pseudoobscura courtship song rate, a motor signal under mate choice in this species, and analysed the response of this signal to sexual selection manipulation using experimental evolution. We show that manipulating the opportunity for sexual selection led to changes in song production rate and singing endurance, with males from the polyandrous populations producing faster song rates over longer time periods than males from monogamous populations. We also show that song rate was correlated with estimates of overall courtship vigour. Our results suggest that the action of mate choice on a motor signal has affected male motor performance displayed during courtship. We consider potential selective benefits associated with changes in motor performance, including condition-dependent signalling, and discuss the implications of these results for the study of motor signals under sexual selection.

Keywords: courtship song; Drosophila pseudoobscura; experimental evolution; interpulse interval; mate choice; motor performance; sexual selection

My commentary: Manipulating courtship opportunities made Drosophila pseudo. sing longer, faster, and fly and move faster. We are not so distant...

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sebastian Heilmann's Leninism Upgraded: Restoration and Innovation Under Xi Jinping

Event Recap -- Leninism Upgraded: Restoration and Innovation Under Xi Jinping. Sebastian Heilmann. Harvard's University Asia Center. April 13, 2017. https://asiacenter.harvard.edu/news/event-recap-%E2%80%93-leninism-upgraded-restoration-and-innovation-under-xi-jinping

When Xi Jinping assumed the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in late 2012, he was confronted with a serious erosion of central party control, informal power networks and entrenched corruption. How did Xi handle this existential threat and consolidate his leadership? At a Critical Issues Confronting China seminar titled “Leninism Upgraded: Restoration and Innovation Under Xi Jinping,” Sebastian Heilmann, President of the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin, former Visiting Fellow at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and former research fellow at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, explained this conundrum and distilled Xi’s approach to leadership into four restorations and five innovations.

First of all, in contrast to other post-1978 Chinese leaders, Xi prioritized political recentralization over economic restructuring in the implementation of the CCP’s agenda for “comprehensively deepening reforms” that has been under way since 2013.

Second, Xi boosted central authority by expanding disciplinary parallel bureaucracies and by implementing a relentless rectification campaign within the CCP under the cloak of anti-corruption.

Third, Xi has imposed “top-level design” (顶层设计), which stands for a system of centralized and top-down policy-making. This reversed the policies of the Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin eras of the 1980s and 1990s, when policy intelligence was believed to be distributed across the political system, and local-level experimentation and bottom-up problem-solving were actively encouraged.

Fourth, Xi streamlined political power by aggressively attacking informal groupings within the party. In effect, tangible intra-party factional activity has reached a low point in CCP history.

In addition to these restorative measures that follow classical Leninist prescriptions, there are innovative elements in Xi’s approach to transform the CCP and make it fit for the 21st century.

First, Xi reorganized the party’s core executive around leader-driven central leading groups that predetermine decisions by formal top-level CCP organs. The separation of party organs from the management of economic affairs under previous leaders was downgraded to a mere “division of labor” (党政分工), thereby bringing party organs back into regular administrative and economic decision-making.

Second, with Wang Huning as his strategic advisor, Xi put much effort into hardening CCP ideological prescriptions, with the intention to delegitimize “Western values” and re-conceptualize the global political and economic order from a Chinese perspective. Though it appears questionable whether a monistic, uniform ideology can be imposed on Chinese society today that is characterized by very diverse lifestyles, value orientations and worldviews, the intensity of CCP ideological work under Xi is starkly different from the much more relaxed approach taken by his post-1978 predecessors.

Third, under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China abandoned Deng Xiaoping’s guiding foreign policy principle of “hiding your strength and biding your time” (韬光养晦). It became more assertive on a global level and sometimes aggressive in dealing with neighboring countries (such as South Korea recently). China has significantly expanded its maritime capabilities, and broadened its economic diplomacy and external funding to open up doors abroad. Meanwhile, China moved into spaces where U.S. presence is weak (such as Central Asia) or is being weakened (multilateral trade and climate policy). Instead of Deng’s “hide and bide” guideline, Xi’s foreign policy pursues the Maoist guerrilla principle of “avoiding the solid main force and instead moving toward the empty spaces” (避实就虚).

Fourth, China harnessed new technologies in cyberspace and social media for political communication. Based on the belief that public opinion in the internet era must be actively shaped and controlled by the CCP, the party’s cyber-administrators moved beyond clumsy censorship by using, for instance, refined algorithms to steer viewers away from subversive content to officially-approved content.

Fifth, under Xi’s leadership, China is building a system of “digital Leninism” through new types of business and social regulation. With financial and communication activities increasingly taking place online, Chinese regulators aim at compiling encompassing “social credit” scores, a kind of big data-enabled rating system, for every market participant, thereby gaining access to detailed and regularly updated data profiles of all companies and citizens.

What will Xi’s leadership look like after the 19th Party Congress in the fall of 2017? According to Heilmann, the best-case scenario is that Xi, after further consolidating his power, will feel secure enough to allow some degree of political relaxation and to decentralize some decision-making power, thereby reinvigorating bottom-up economic and policy dynamism. The worst-case scenario is further political and economic ossification as a result of rigid party control and expanded surveillance instruments. For international relations, Heilmann anticipated that, if liberal democracies continue to appear torn and weak, China will find an environment conducive to attacking “Western values” and promote its own version of political order based on non-liberal principles, not just domestically but also increasingly on a global level and in multilateral institutions.

In one year China is making 107 towers taller than 200m. The US needed decades to build 189 ones.



Asia Dreams in Skyscrapers. By Jason M Barr
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/opinion/china-asia-skyscrapers.html
The New York Times, Oct 11 2017

The skyscraper was born in the United States, but in recent years, it has grown and flourished in Asia. Countries there recognize that to be seen as a player on the global stage, it helps to have tall buildings.

Over a century ago, New York and Chicago demonstrated that the skyscraper is, fundamentally, a solution to an economic problem: how to allow for hundreds, if not thousands, of people and businesses to be at the same place at the same time. Urban clustering, especially in a high-tech world, is more important than ever. By promoting density, skyscrapers confer a competitive advantage and allow a city to become a beacon of commerce.

In April, President Xi Jinping of China announced plans for a new city, Xiongan, not far from Beijing. A kind of Chinese field of dreams, Xiongan is to be built on what is now hundreds of square miles of farmland and towns, house millions of people and be a center for technology jobs. Like the cities it’s being modeled after — Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, and Shanghai, particularly its Pudong neighborhood — it may someday claim the world’s tallest skyscrapers. The Ping An Finance tower in Shenzhen, completed this year, at 115 stories, is the fourth-tallest building in the world, while the Shanghai Tower, completed in 2015, at 128 stories, is the second-tallest skyscraper on the planet.

Since the 1990s, the world’s tallest buildings have been built in the East. The current prize holder — the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (828 meters, or about 2,717 feet, 2010) — will be soon be surpassed by the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia (1,000 meters, or about 3,281 feet, 2020). Nine of the 10 world’s tallest buildings are in Asia. In addition, the continent now has more 150-meter (about 492 feet) or taller buildings than the rest of the continents combined.

An awe-inspiring skyline is a city’s announcement that it is open for business and confident in its future growth. Supertall structures stand as “place makers” in the planning process, since they create neighborhood landmarks to draw companies, residents, tourists and foreign direct investment. China is now a nation full of capitalists. Arab workers are no longer just oil drillers, but global traders and financiers.

But just as important, cities that have record-breaking buildings are not just constructing super-tall monoliths. There is a strong correlation between the number of tall buildings of all sizes and the likelihood a city will have a supertall building; heights and frequencies are strongly related. The Burj Khalifa and Shanghai Tower, for example, are the most visible signs that a city embraces skyscrapers more broadly to enhance economic growth and the quality of life of residents and companies.

Consider where these nations stand. Over the last decade, the average annual gross domestic product growth rates in India, China, Indonesia and Malaysia were, in most years, more than three times that of the United States. As part of this development, nations expand their financial and banking sectors; research shows that skyscrapers are needed for this to happen.

Furthermore, China is witnessing what is arguably the greatest internal migration in human history. In 1979, only about 19 percent of its residents lived in urban areas; today that figure is about 57 percent, and this movement shows no sign of slowing. To put this in perspective, the number of Chinese residents who have moved to cities since 1979 (600 million) is greater than the total current population of North America (580 million). By comparison, in 1900, urbanization in the United States was at 40 percent; by 1970, it was up to 74 percent, and has since inched up to 82 percent.

Given this rapid growth, governments generally have two options: They can encourage tall buildings to satisfy the urban demand, or they can restrict building heights, which then increases sprawl, congestion and the distances between people. As a result, Asian governments establish land-use rules that increase density, as well as sponsor international architecture competitions, provide subsidies or simply lend support. Across China, we see a strong correlation between the heights of cities’ skyscrapers and the size of their populations and local economies.

Interestingly, the Chinese government has also indirectly created political incentives for their construction. Because of one-party rule, career promotion within the Communist Party is based on the ability to “get things done” — and building skyscrapers can serve that purpose. Recent research suggests that younger local officials build more skyscrapers and invest in more infrastructure to enhance their standing within the government.

In the United States, high-rise construction remains controversial. Though things are starting to change, at its core, the country remains dedicated to promoting single-family homes in the suburbs and sprawling car-dependent office parks. Many municipalities put up hurdles for tall building construction, allowing them only in densest parts of the central city. As a result, we see a flowering of new supertall buildings there, but they are frequently derided as “safe deposit boxes with views.” Because of the negative perceptions, it has become difficult to have conversations about how they can make cities more resilient and less dependent on fossil fuels.

What is the future of the skyscraper? As long as Asian countries pursue lifestyles similar to that of the West, skyscrapers will continue to be built, as they not only help foster economic growth, but also establish a city’s skyline, which then becomes part of a city’s identity and character.

As technological improvements make building skyscrapers easier and faster, the race for the world’s tallest building will continue as well. Since 1890, their heights have grown, on average, about 17 feet per year. Statistically speaking, this suggests that a mile-high building will be built in the middle of the 22nd century. But don’t tell that to Tokyo, which wants to get there first by 2045.

Jason M. Barr, a professor of economics at Rutgers University-Newark, is the author of “Building the Skyline: The Birth and Growth of Manhattan’s Skyscrapers.”

China’s booming electric vehicle market is about to run into a mountain of battery waste

China’s booming electric vehicle market is about to run into a mountain of battery waste. By Echo Huang
https://qz.com/1088195/chinas-booming-electric-vehicle-market-is-about-to-run-into-a-mountain-of-battery-waste/
Quartz, September 28, 2017

China’s push to promote electric cars comes with a lot of benefits for a country that suffers from terrible air pollution from its reliance on fossil fuels. But there’s always a downside—electric car batteries are toxic if not disposed of properly, and China’s on the verge of having to deal with a slew of batteries that can no longer hold a charge.

In just a few years, China has become the world’s biggest electric vehicle market, with the help of subsidies. It saw 336,00 new electric car registrations (pdf, p.12) in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency. That includes both battery-only and hybrid models. Including other types of vehicles, China says it sold a total of half a million “new energy” vehicles last year. This month, China also said that it would eventually phase out sales of all fossil-fuel cars.

That fast-growing market, however, is also producing batteries at a faster rate too. The average lifespan of a lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) battery, the dominant type in China’s electric vehicles, is around five years, according to Li Changdong, chairman of the Hunan-based Brunp group, China’s top electric car battery recycler in 2016 (link in Chinese). Most batteries installed on electric vehicles during the 2012 to 2014 period will be retired on a large scale (link in Chinese) around 2018, Li told the Beijing-based newspaper Economic Information Daily.

In 2020, nearly 250,000 metric tons (276,000 tons) of batteries, or 35 gigawatt-hours of batteries, are set to be retired—nearly 20 times those depleted in 2016, GaoGong Industry Institute, a Shenzhen-based electric car industry research firm, told Quartz.

[Unused batteries in China https://www.theatlas.com/charts/HJLUhCdjZ]


The battery is the heart of the electric vehicle industry, and the country needs a well-established battery recycling system, Xin Guobin, a top industry and tech official, told a national forum for the battery-powered engine industry Tuesday (link in Chinese) (Sept. 26). But recycling these batteries isn’t easy, due to the sophisticated chemical procedures involved. If it’s not done properly the heavy metal contained in the battery can lead to contamination of soil and water.

According to China’s 2015 electric vehicle battery policy, car manufacturers are responsible for recycling their batteries (link in Chinese). But many auto manufacturers often leave the responsibility to battery suppliers, who find it hard to afford the cost of building a national recycling network, noted the Economic Information Daily. For now, China’s battery recycling industry is relatively small and scattered, and recycling operating costs are high, Gao Xiaobing, director of the lithium battery study center at GaoGong, told Quartz. That’s discouraging more players from entering the business.

China’s not the only one facing a recycling headache. In the European Union, only 5% (pdf) of lithium-ion batteries, another common type of battery power used in electric vehicles are recycled, according to data from non-governmental environment advocacy group Friends of the Earth Europe, which pointed out that “most of the current lithium is either dumped in landfill or incinerated.”