Experts call for recycling EV batteries to meet the growing demand for lithium and cobalt.
By Jeremy Deaton
Climate warriors like to imagine a future where electric cars put oil companies out of business. Firms would stop injecting known carcinogens into the ground to break up the layer of hard, shale rock hiding stores of fuel, and they would no longer plumb the ocean depths for oil, letting sticky black goo leak into the sea.
To get to that future — a future where we don’t need to dig oil out of the ground— companies will need to dig a whole lot of metal out of the ground, and that’s potentially bad news for people who work in mines or live nearby.
Like solar panels and wind turbines, electric car batteries are made from some of the most hard-to-get metals on Earth— dysprosium, neodymium, manganese, cobalt and lithium — the list of materials reads like Tony Stark’s shopping list. EV manufacturers are going to need a lot more of these metals if we are to build enough electric cars to keep warming to 1.5 degrees C, the stated goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.
If countries took the radical action needed to meet this target — an improbably optimistic scenario — demand for cobalt and lithium would exceed the current supply by 2022 and 2023 respectively, according to a new book, Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement, that investigates the obstacles to preventing catastrophic climate change.Share This