Electric vehicle life cycle analysis and raw material availability

October 26, 2017

As the automotive industry is on the brink of a major electric transition, environmental performance of EVs has become a highly debated topic. This study and briefing address two critical aspects of this debate, namely the climate impact of EVs and the use of critical metals, including rare earth minerals.

The study’s lifecycle analysis of EVs shows that even when powered by the most carbon intensive electricity in Europe, they emit less GHG than a conventional diesel vehicle. As more renewable electricity enters the European grid, the climate impact of EV 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.

The briefing shows that critical metals and rare earth minerals will not be constrained in the coming decades and won’t stop the EV transition, as some have argued. Supply of these materials will have to be closely monitored and diversified to avoid being overly dependent on imports, as is the case with oil today. To this extent, innovation will in the long term contribute to reduce the quantity of critical metals used in EVs.

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