EVs require far fewer raw materials than combustion engine cars

Behind each and every car is a collection of raw materials that need sourcing, but some cars require more than others.

For many years, there have been claims that EVs can actively have a negative impact on the environment through assembly alone. However, new findings by Belgian not-for-profit organisation Transport & Environment provides proof that EVs are far less resource-intensive than fossil-fuel cars.

Increased battery efficiency and recycling will leave the EU significantly less dependent on imports for raw materials than it is for oil.

– Lucien Mathieu, transport and e-mobility analyst at T&E

The organisation published a study, suggesting that fossil-fuel cars burn 17,000 litres of petrol over its lifetime, equivalent to a stack of oil barrels which would stand 25 storeys tall. By comparison, an EV which uses batteries as a fuel source would require just 30kg of raw metals which would be lost in the fabrication process.

By switching from oil-based fuels to electric battery power, by implication, cars could become significantly less of a drain on resources.

Recycling is the key

One of the biggest advantages for EVs over fossil-fuel cars is the way they are powered. Fossil fuels are finite in nature, and take millions of years to form. Our consumption of oil is far outpacing the rate at which oil can be created naturally, and the burning of it can ultimately have a detrimental impact on our environment. As such, oil is not re-usable – once burnt, it is lost forever, releasing carbon and other toxic chemicals into the environment.

By contrast, EVs are powered by a battery, often made using metals such as lithium and cobalt. Fortunately, both metals are recyclable, although the process of recycling them can costly, at least at the present time. Transport & Environment suggests that 20 per cent of the lithium and 65 per cent of the cobalt used in the average EV battery could be recovered to create an entirely new battery down the road.

The European Commission is doing its bit to make EV battery recycling easier than ever, with proposals for new regulations to help update the existing EU Batteries Directive. As part of a broader Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Commission intends to create the conditions to make batteries easier to collect, repurpose and recycle, limiting the amount of raw material extraction from around the world in the process.

Helping Europe stay in the circle

The principle of a circular economy would allow the EU to match the aspirations laid out in its Green Deal. By following this new model for managing resources, the bloc could be self-sufficient in generating materials for consumption via recycling. Once consumed, the circular economy would allow for easy collection of waste products, which can be recycled once more, re-starting the circular journey of resources within the economy.

Transport & Environment claimed that a ramping up of battery recycling for EVs will allow European battery production to outpace demand by this year. As many as 22 gigafactories across Europe specially built for the creation of new batteries are expected to generate productive capacity of 460GWh, enough to power as many as eight million cars by 2025.

This means less reliance on oil, lower emissions produced, and less mining of raw materials over the long term. As the door closes on the era of oil, the circle for renewably-sourced battery-powered EVs opens up and expands.

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