Batteries vs oil: A comparison of raw material needs

March 1, 2021

T&E’s study assesses the amount of raw materials needed to make electric vehicle batteries today and in the future - taking into account changes in manufacturing processes and recycling.

The research takes into account changes in manufacturing processes and recycling. It compares this with the raw materials needed to run a fossil fuel car to show that electric car batteries need significantly less raw materials. The report also shows that on a systemic level Europe’s overreliance on oil imports far outweighs those of battery raw materials, helping Europe to become self-sufficient in batteries.

Key findings:

  • Electric vehicles consume far less raw material (metals) than fossil fueled cars

When taking into account the recycling of the battery cell materials and that the majority of the metal content is recovered, T&E calculates how much is ‘consumed’ or ‘lost’ during the lifetime of an EV. Under the EU’s current recycling recovery rate target, around 30 kilograms of metals would be lost (i.e. not recovered). That’s about the size of a football.

In contrast, the study shows that the weight of petrol or diesel that is burned during the average lifetime of a vehicle is around 300-400 times more than the total quantity of battery cells metals ‘lost’. Over its lifetime, an average ICE car burns close to 17,000 liters of petrol, which would be equivalent to a stack of oil barrels 90m high.

  • Less raw material will be needed for batteries over time

Technological advancements will drive down the amount of lithium required to make an EV battery by half over the next decade. The amount of cobalt required will drop by more than three-quarters and nickel by around a fifth.

  • Europe will need to import less raw material because of recycling

In 2035 over a fifth of the lithium and nickel, and 65% of the cobalt, needed to make a new battery could come from recycling. 

  • Europe will likely produce enough batteries to supply its own EV market soon

T&E calculates that there will be 460 GWh (in 2025) and 700 GWh (2030) of battery production in Europe – enough to meet the demand of electric cars.

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