A team of scientists has written to the Committee of Climate Change warning that if the UK’s 31.5 million cars are replaced by electric vehicles by 2050, as is currently planned by the Government, this will require almost twice the current annual global supply of cobalt. Moreover, as we have already reported, a shortage of this battery material could be experienced by the early 2020s.
Now, a letter from the Natural History Museum’s head of Earth Sciences, Professor Richard Herrington, along with other experts, points out the scale of the problem of building so many electric cars. They calculate that, even with the most efficient batteries available, full electrification of the auto fleet by 2035 would need a lot more mining.
Lots of mining
The researchers have also calculated that based on the latest ‘811’ battery technology (80 per cent nickel, 10 per cent cobalt, 10 per cent manganese), UK demand for EV batteries will require almost the total amount of neodymium produced globally each year, three quarter’s of the world’s lithium, and “at least half” of the world’s copper.
And they are not just nicely asking for resources.
Lots of energy
The future is electrifying, the Internation Energy Agency reports.
Electricity is the rising force among worldwide end-uses of energy, making up 40% of the rise in final consumption to 2040 – the same share of growth that oil took for the last twenty-five years.
With this global scenario, the earth scientists also estimate that the energy required to mine materials for EV batteries will take 22.5 TWh (TeraWatt-hours) of energy, equivalent to six per cent of the UK’s current annual electrical usage. Just mining the battery materials necessary to replace the two billion cars in the world would require four times the UK’s total annual electrical output.
So, what can we do?
Nothing will save us, but us. Maybe the world would come to an end while we are eating a burger waiting for some sci-fi tech miracle to come and save us. Maybe not.
But meanwhile, look around.
It is simple math, as long as we use more than we really need the system will collapse. We have to look at getting people out of cars, at making it easier for people to use e-bikes and cargo bikes, transit and feet. We have to look at alternatives that use less stuff more efficiently.
Electric cars won’t save us, we will.