26th June 2024

Written by Mitchell Lakin

The EV Material Supply Chain – Challenges and Solutions

With electric vehicles now picking up major traction as we march towards the UK’s 2035 all-electric target, battery manufacturing is rapidly increasing. This article delves into the five materials that form the building blocks of lithium-ion batteries and presents the challenges of their extraction plus what this means going forwards. And, of course, with any rapid growing industry, there are investments and strategies in place to bring solutions to the issues it’s being faced with.

Five Main Minerals of Lithium-ion Batteries

The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy divides our economy’s important minerals into three categories of increasing severity. Firstly, critical minerals are not only essential but also face significant risks to their supply security. Most of these are produced in very small values, e.g. if they are by-products of other mining or have low rates of recycling. The second set is called the watchlist, those that have the potential to become critical due to increasing global demand – as a result of a rapidly growing product, like EVs – or political changes such as global tensions. Finally, other important minerals are those that are still in demand but pose no current risks to supply chains. Due to the growth of EVs, all five key materials in batteries sit in the critical or watchlist territories, as seen below.

Challenges of Battery Mineral Extraction

The following list breaks down all the current issues and difficulties in the mining industry of these five minerals, as well as some poorly grounded arguments that work their way through hearsay and social media. We will first debunk some arguments that come up quite often in the discourse of EV batteries. Afterwards, we’ll address each issue with evidence of recent developments and solutions.

1 – False: ‘Carbon emissions from the manufacture of EV batteries are higher than a petrol car’s lifespan’

Over the lifetime of the vehicle, battery electric cars generate fewer emissions of the average comparable gasoline car (4 times fewer emissions in some cases) even when battery manufacturing is included in the calculation – and as the manufacturing refines, the process is getting cleaner.

Many carbon-neutral agreements are being made by vehicle manufacturers – Audi’s e-Tron batteries are made at a carbon-neutral facility, and Audi has committed that all its manufacturing plants will be carbon neutral by 2025.

2 – False: there are insufficient supplies of EV battery materials

Although each of the primary battery components are labelled in the critical minerals graph, the insufficient supplies of EV battery materials is not a well-founded argument

In terms of cobalt, many vehicle manufacturers such as Tesla are replacing the material with different components

Other materials such as lithium display large deposits in the US. For example, it is estimated that the lithium in Southern California’s Salton Sea could supply one-third of the global demand for EV batteries. Insufficiency of supply may not be a problem. However, there are a number of challenges that mining these materials may bring.

3 – True: the environmental impacts of extracting lithium

Problem: Due to the method of lithium extraction – refining through the evaporation of large bodies of water – the main concern is that it can impact water supply, especially in desert areas

Developments: with lithium being a key component of battery tech, a new method called direct lithium extraction (DLE) is rapidly developing. Unlike the traditional method, this involves a much smaller evaporation pool, has a much faster extraction time and has a lithium recovery rate of 95% when compared to the 50% of solar extraction. All of these factors, paired with less energy usage shows a massive reduction in environmental impact. Although not yet perfect, this progress highlights the advancements being made.

4 – True: unethical labour practices for mining cobalt

Problem: according to Melissa Pistilli of the Investing News Network, 70% of this resource is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in which there is a number of ethical concerns to the mining practices. For example, in 2019, it was rated the 3rd worst country for child labour practices. Although the Democratic Republic of Congo no longer made this list in 2023, the mining remains far from ethical.

Developments: as stated by Coltura, many automakers are already developing cobalt-free batteries, largely in the wake of the US Department of Energy supporting this aim. On top of this, as batteries become more and more crucial, many manufacturers are committed to ethical sourcing of all their materials, cobalt included.

5 – True: a growth in the EV battery industry brings issues of land use and waste

Problem: despite developments of recent years, the metal mining industry is a major source of toxic waste, with the US’ mining being its largest single source

Developments: The European Union has adopted regulations requiring EV battery recycling, and China is working to tighten its EV battery recycling laws. If you’re looking to learn more about battery recycling, we have an article on everything from stages of battery life to what happens after disposal.

Even with challenges like environmental concerns, ethical labour practices, and supply chain issues, there’s a lot of progress happening. Innovations like direct lithium extraction and new regulations on battery recycling show that steps are being taken to tackle these problems. Also, manufacturers are really stepping up with commitments to carbon-neutral production and ethical sourcing, which highlights the industry’s move towards more sustainable practices.

To keep updated on our latest news regarding installations, EV developments and more articles like this, follow us on:

Facebook: Car Charged UK
Instagram: Car_Chargeduk
Twitter: CarChargedUK
LinkedIn: car-charged-uk

The EV Material Supply Chain – Challenges and Solutions

With electric vehicles now picking up major traction as we march towards the UK’s 2035 all-electric target, battery manufacturing is rapidly increasing. This article delves into the five materials that form the building blocks of lithium-ion batteries and presents the challenges of their extraction plus what this means going forwards. And, of course, with any rapid growing industry, there are investments and strategies in place to bring solutions to the issues it’s being faced with.

Five Main Minerals of Lithium-ion Batteries

The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy divides our economy’s important minerals into three categories of increasing severity. Firstly, critical minerals are not only essential but also face significant risks to their supply security. Most of these are produced in very small values, e.g. if they are by-products of other mining or have low rates of recycling. The second set is called the watchlist, those that have the potential to become critical due to increasing global demand – as a result of a rapidly growing product, like EVs – or political changes such as global tensions. Finally, other important minerals are those that are still in demand but pose no current risks to supply chains. Due to the growth of EVs, all five key materials in batteries sit in the critical or watchlist territories, as seen below.

Challenges of Battery Mineral Extraction

The following list breaks down all the current issues and difficulties in the mining industry of these five minerals, as well as some poorly grounded arguments that work their way through hearsay and social media. We will first debunk some arguments that come up quite often in the discourse of EV batteries. Afterwards, we’ll address each issue with evidence of recent developments and solutions.

1 – False: ‘Carbon emissions from the manufacture of EV batteries are higher than a petrol car’s lifespan’

Over the lifetime of the vehicle, battery electric cars generate fewer emissions of the average comparable gasoline car (4 times fewer emissions in some cases) even when battery manufacturing is included in the calculation – and as the manufacturing refines, the process is getting cleaner.

Many carbon-neutral agreements are being made by vehicle manufacturers – Audi’s e-Tron batteries are made at a carbon-neutral facility, and Audi has committed that all its manufacturing plants will be carbon neutral by 2025.

2 – False: there are insufficient supplies of EV battery materials

Although each of the primary battery components are labelled in the critical minerals graph, the insufficient supplies of EV battery materials is not a well-founded argument

In terms of cobalt, many vehicle manufacturers such as Tesla are replacing the material with different components

Other materials such as lithium display large deposits in the US. For example, it is estimated that the lithium in Southern California’s Salton Sea could supply one-third of the global demand for EV batteries. Insufficiency of supply may not be a problem. However, there are a number of challenges that mining these materials may bring.

3 – True: the environmental impacts of extracting lithium

Problem: Due to the method of lithium extraction – refining through the evaporation of large bodies of water – the main concern is that it can impact water supply, especially in desert areas

Developments: with lithium being a key component of battery tech, a new method called direct lithium extraction (DLE) is rapidly developing. Unlike the traditional method, this involves a much smaller evaporation pool, has a much faster extraction time and has a lithium recovery rate of 95% when compared to the 50% of solar extraction. All of these factors, paired with less energy usage shows a massive reduction in environmental impact. Although not yet perfect, this progress highlights the advancements being made.

4 – True: unethical labour practices for mining cobalt

Problem: according to Melissa Pistilli of the Investing News Network, 70% of this resource is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in which there is a number of ethical concerns to the mining practices. For example, in 2019, it was rated the 3rd worst country for child labour practices. Although the Democratic Republic of Congo no longer made this list in 2023, the mining remains far from ethical.

Developments: as stated by Coltura, many automakers are already developing cobalt-free batteries, largely in the wake of the US Department of Energy supporting this aim. On top of this, as batteries become more and more crucial, many manufacturers are committed to ethical sourcing of all their materials, cobalt included.

5 – True: a growth in the EV battery industry brings issues of land use and waste

Problem: despite developments of recent years, the metal mining industry is a major source of toxic waste, with the US’ mining being its largest single source

Developments: The European Union has adopted regulations requiring EV battery recycling, and China is working to tighten its EV battery recycling laws. If you’re looking to learn more about battery recycling, we have an article on everything from stages of battery life to what happens after disposal.

Even with challenges like environmental concerns, ethical labour practices, and supply chain issues, there’s a lot of progress happening. Innovations like direct lithium extraction and new regulations on battery recycling show that steps are being taken to tackle these problems. Also, manufacturers are really stepping up with commitments to carbon-neutral production and ethical sourcing, which highlights the industry’s move towards more sustainable practices.

To keep updated on our latest news regarding installations, EV developments and more articles like this, follow us on:

Facebook: Car Charged UK
Instagram: Car_Chargeduk
Twitter: CarChargedUK
LinkedIn: car-charged-uk

26th June 2024

Written by Mitchell Lakin