Enough raw metals to make 14 million electric cars globally in 2023 – study

May 3, 2022

There is enough nickel and lithium to meet the world’s electric car needs, but Europe’s policymakers must do more to shore up supplies of sustainably sourced clean-energy metals

There is enough lithium and nickel available to produce 14 million electric cars globally in 2023 even without Russian supplies, a new study into the short-term availability of raw materials shows. Transport & Environment (T&E), who carried out the study, calls on European governments to do more to shore up access to key metals to ensure its green energy security.

Julia Poliscanova, senior director at T&E, said: “War in Ukraine has shown that we must wean ourselves off oil. The best way to do this is to go electric. Despite what people say, there is no shortage of lithium or nickel in Earth’s crust. It is only a shortage of political will that leaves Europe vulnerable to supply squeezes.”

The best way for Europe to punish the Putin regime for its illegal war on Ukraine is to shift to electric vehicles, says T&E. In stark contrast to oil, nickel and lithium – crucial metals for the manufacture of EV batteries – are overwhelmingly mined in democratic countries. Yet, many claim there are not enough raw materials available to switch to electric in the short-term, a problem exacerbated by sanctions on Russian nickel.

T&E’s study shows that there would be enough lithium and nickel (1) metals to make up to 14 million battery electric cars (BEV) globally in 2023 – 55% higher than the current market projections. In 2025, even if raw material supplies tighten and remain below battery factory capacity, 21 million BEVs could still be produced – almost 50% more than market estimates.

However, this does not guarantee Europe’s supply as the world’s leading EV market. Growing electric cars sales in China and the US mean that there is competition for the critical raw materials, with both countries introducing measures to ensure access to key raw materials. 

Julia Poliscanova added: “While China and the US are flexing their policy muscle to secure supplies of critical metals, European leaders are scouring the globe for more oil. Now is the time to focus on sourcing the sustainable raw materials the continent needs for our energy independence and a green future.”

European policymakers need to beef up diplomacy with fellow democracies like resource-rich Australia, Indonesia, Canada and Chile, and begin discussions with mining companies, says T&E. The group has called on the EU to create a dedicated authority to ensure security of supply of sustainably sourced critical metals.

There are genuine concerns about the effect a tight commodities market will have on battery prices. Structurally, a long period of low commodity prices has seen underinvestment in new metal mining, while short-term Covid-induced disruptions in supply chains and the war in Ukraine have added to pressure on prices. But this is not expected to last, says T&E. Mining and recycling companies are already reacting to high prices by announcing expansions, which should lead to prices stabilising in the next few years.

Note to editors:

(1) Based on maximum nameplate capacity, not accounting for potential financial or other risks, or unexpected events, such as Covid related factory closures

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