Road transport and especially passenger transport is on the brink of a major transition to electric drive.
From peer-reviewed, scientific studies including lifecycle analysis (LCA) if has become clear that even when powered by the most carbon intensive electricity in Europe, Electric Vehicles (EVs) emit less GHG than a conventional diesel or gasoline vehicle. However, we still see many, non-scientific, publications stating the opposite. As investment in renewable energy continues to outstrip other forms of power generation, the climate and other impact of EVs will further diminish. Likewise, technological improvement of battery chemistry, the reuse of battery for storage purposes, and the development of a recycling industry for EV batteries will lead to improvements in their sustainability as well.
Major economies like China, the UK and France have already published roadmaps for decarbonization of road transport through the electrification of vehicles. In parallel, technological developments are expected to lead to electric vehicles achieving price parity with traditional combustion engine vehicles in the first half of the next decade and all of the world’s major car manufacturers intend to increase significantly their EV offerings and sales volumes in the coming years.
This impending tipping point has brought into sharp focus the expected heightened demand for critical minerals used in the production of EVs. The supply of minerals for EVs, and their environmental, climate change and social impacts throughout the supply chain from mining to end production have become highly debated topics. The result is an frequently confused debate about the global supply chains of the critical raw materials and the role EVs can play in a cleaner, decarbonized, environmentally and socially sustainable future.
Supply of the critical minerals required for Lithium-ion batteries, which is currently the dominant battery technology in EVs, may or may not become critical the coming decade or beyond 2030. However, mainstream communication often mixes facts, myths and fiction and materials such as Lithium, Cobalt, Graphite and Rare Earth Elements have attracted headlines focused on perceived or blown out of proportion issues in their supply chains, ranging from short and long-term availability to potentially negative environmental and social impacts compared to traditional fossil-fuel based vehicles.
Such is the projected demand in the production and use of EVs over the coming decades, that it is vital to take a deeper look at potential supply chain issues for several of the Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) needed for EV manufacturing.
However, this is not as easy and clear as it might seem with often unable to separate fact from speculation in relation to future demand for EVS, the intensity of demand this will place on Critical Raw Materials and the potential for alternative technologies to supersede current technologies.
All this makes any projection of the supply chain needs difficult and uncertain.
Governments and other Stakeholders need clarity, transparency and up to date information.
The Task 40 of the Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Technology Collaboration Programme of the International Energy Agency aims to suggest ways to project the most likely scenarios where supply and demand can be balanced and whereby the environmental and social challenges can be overcome and turned in positive improvements.
It plans to do so as only with correct, scientific information from which policymakers can confidently make decisions that will help, and not hinder, the sustainable transition to electric vehicles.
Task 40, also known Critical Raw Materials for Electric Vehicles, CRM4EV for brevity, wants:
For Critical Raw Materials
- Investigate what are the supply risks of CRMs, in short and long term
- Define their quality aspect for the use in EVs
- Elaborate on the environmental impacts
- Elaborate on the social impacts
- Explore the opportunities for recycling and for the circular economy
- Investigate legislation concerning CRMs
- Define the current use of CRMs
- Find out which CRMs will be used less
For Electric Vehicles
- Project when and to what extent mass deployment may happen by defining various potential scenarios
- Measure how EV technologies are evolving and how this will impact which the type and quantity of CRMs will be required