As production and sales of EVs in Europe continue to ramp up, so too will demand for the batteries that power them. Thanks to new factories, those batteries will be made in Europe. Also, advancements in battery technology and recycling mean the amount of primary raw materials required to make them will be massively reduced. Meanwhile, new EU rules will address concerns around potential human rights abuses linked to the extraction of battery raw materials.
At least 22 battery gigafactories are planned for Europe over the coming years, with production capacity set to rise from 460 GWh in 2025 (enough for around 8 million battery electric cars) to 730 GWh in 2030. This is more than enough to meet the expected EV market demand in the EU and shows that policies aimed at boosting the EV market are also bringing investments into domestic supply chain and manufacturing. Recent investments by CATL and Tesla in Germany, Northvolt in Sweden and Germany, LG Chem in Poland, and Samsung SKI in Hungary and Austria, to name a few, mean the EU is now well placed to secure autonomy in this strategic supply chain of the future.
Raw material availability
Fears over raw material availability for batteries are not supported by the evidence, and ignore the fact that electric vehicles (including the battery) consume far less raw materials than fossil fuel cars. Once battery recycling is taken into account, a battery electric vehicle ‘consumes’ (i.e. loses), around 30 kilograms of metals (about the size of a football). However, over its lifetime, an average fossil fuelled car burns close to 17,000 litres of petrol (equivalent to a stack of oil barrels 90m high and around 300-400 times more than the total quantity of battery cell metals ‘lost’).
Technology and recycling
Advancements in battery technology and battery recycling will also massively reduce the amount of primary raw materials (in particular lithium, cobalt and nickel) required to make an EV battery. Technological advancements will drive down the amount of lithium required to make an EV battery by half over the next decade, while the amount of cobalt required will drop by more than three-quarters and nickel by around a fifth. By 2035, recycling will also contribute over a fifth of the lithium and nickel, and 65% of the cobalt, needed to make a new battery.
New EU rules on sustainable battery supply chains will also address concerns around potential human rights abuses linked to the extraction of battery raw materials, such as cobalt, through mandatory supply chain due diligence. Equivalent requirements should also be applied to all raw material extraction industries, including oil and gas, for which no due diligence or traceability requirements currently exist.
Read more about human rights in our briefing ‘Cobalt from Congo: how to source it better’, April 18 2019.