What Cost EV Growth?

26w ago


Eco-warriors and European governments have since the emergence of [new] EV cars been both predicting a new-dawn and deterring market confidence in fossil-fuelled cars. Declaring to anyone who will listen that cars, at least as we know them are dead.

The UK government is not alone, setting ever increasingly aggressive targets on reducing orthodox fuelled cars, even tabling a total ban; forcing inevitably car manufactures to go into PR overdrive looking to outdo each other by declaring model changes and laying out confident production plans to bring their total range in line with battery operation.

I’ve discussed this before in such blogs as “Electric Cars Are A Slow Burn” and “Is EV A Myth?” but there is, simply put a LONG way to go. Energy Research & Consultancy Wood Mackenzie, is as cautious as me on this, quoting figures that will worry ‘swampy’ and his mates: It has electric passenger cars accounting for 6% of sales by 2025, 11% by 2030, and just 36% by 2040; which lest we forget is D-day for the UK! Not really the landslide of public opinion and change they were looking for.

Much has been discussed in our blogs about charging point availability, supply chain disasters, pricing and even masses of incorrect/confusing information, as a final question mark over wholesale EV switch over, what about metal supply, after all current engines are made of cast Iron and or Aluminium, both of which can be mined in vast quantities; but what about the three metals in high demand for the batteries for EV cars:

Lithium, there seems little concern here, given vast mining supply from Australia, however:

Cobalt, cobalt appears in most commercial lithium-ion batteries—but it comes at a price; described as the ‘Blood Diamonds’ of batteries is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo [66 percent of the world’s cobalt] where human rights violations, including child-miners, have placed both a high dollar and human cost on this metal, which has been pivotal to the lithium-ion battery since John Goodenough created the first one in 1980. So much so that earlier this year [2018] “Mr EV-News story”, Elon Musk tweeted that batteries for the Tesla Model 3 use less than 3 percent of cobalt, and the next generation battery “will use none” ! It seems then that no-one wants cobalt or at least to be associated with its production, so much so that the FT commented recently on this whole story.

There are alternatives, but costly and untested. It is murky waters and the crystal ball is cloudy as to where by 2025 cobalt or an alternative will be sourced from.

Questions from other blogs on this site, ask if the whole matter of wholesale EV switch over has been considered fully, parts supply, trained and developed workforce, charging etc. however, with the current crop of battery technology, achieving vast increases in EV sales by 2025 and full switch by 2040, is going to be very challenging, even impossible.

Anyone today 2018/2019, who thinks by driving an EV they are being altruistic or eco-friendly, or is portraying their car as a conscience purchase, look at news stories from the Congo; President Joseph Kabila said only this year [9th March 2018] “We need to make enough money before we run out of these minerals so that is why they are strategic to the country. We have to make sure for the next 20 years we make money from these minerals because demand is going to be so high. It’s going to continue to grow and we are not going to stop raising the royalties on these minerals,” The reality is that most of Congo's metal resources are sold illegally and the revenue, instead of going towards the country's development, is helping to fund the ongoing violence.

The mines in the east are controlled by various armed groups. Of the many consequences one major concern to the UN is that civilians, including children, are recruited as forced labour. The death rate in these mines is high.

Is EV is the final solution?