Global Geopolitics of EV Batteries : Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Mobility
Electric cars (EVs) are becoming increasingly popular as people become more ecologically concerned. These cars are powered by powertrain batteries, but their construction has prompted concerns about the supply chain and raw materials utilized.
Those of us who can afford electric cars appreciate the pleasure of such high-tech SUVs, but how many people are aware of how electric car batteries are manufactured? Only a few million new electric cars entered the auto ecosystem in 2018, according to experts, but over the following 20 years, this number is expected to rise to 300 to 500 million. How will such a massive number of vehicles be powered? The easiest answer is electric rechargeable batteries.
In this article, we will look at the Global geopolitics of Electric Vehicle Batteries and how the prospect of clean, renewable energy is on the verge of success or failure.
Global Geopolitics of EV Batteries
- Powertrain Batteries
Electric vehicles use powertrain batteries to provide electricity to all engine components, allowing the vehicle to function normally. While the usefulness of powertrain batteries is undeniable, the supply chain and, more significantly, the raw materials utilized in their manufacture are under question. The expense of making EV powertrain batteries has shown to be extremely expensive. Unfortunately, few manufacturers are taking the issue seriously.
These batteries’ basic materials are lithium and its variants. Cobalt, nickel, manganese, and other materials are examples of these variants. The cobalt manganese substance, which is employed by many electric vehicle manufacturers, is presently dominating the market.
- Lithium Cobalt
Tesla, on the other hand, use a lithium cobalt manganese alloy. In addition, the manufacturer is developing a cobalt-free engine. Nonetheless, cobalt remains the most important mineral without which electric vehicles would be difficult or impossible to manufacture with current technology.
Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia produce lithium. These three South American countries own a sizable portion of the world’s lithium reserves. Cobalt, on the other hand, is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa. The DR Congo, as it is informally known, is the world’s most important cobalt supply. This African country contains more than half of the world’s cobalt deposits. While a country with such a great resource should benefit from it, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has become a wonderful illustration of man’s inhumanity to man.
Violations of human rights and slave labor are common in cobalt mining. Exploratory activities also have a huge negative impact on the ecosystem. According to estimates, up to 40,000 youngsters labor in the DR Congo’s cobalt artisanal mines every day, with no safety requirements in place. Let us not forget the scourge of child labor.
The consequences of lithium mining are being felt throughout Chile as the water-intensive operation contaminates the land. With all of the unpleasant occurrences surrounding cobalt extraction, one would expect manufacturers to seek for alternate minerals for creating electric vehicle batteries. But, lithium mining poses risks to local populations’ agricultural lifestyle.
Why is cobalt such a big deal ?
First and foremost, this material is known as the “blood diamond of batteries” since it has made individuals and corporations wealthy. According to Elon Musk of Tesla, developing automobiles that people can buy is important to the company’s long-term aims. Because this mineral is the most expensive material for making batteries, firms like Tesla are trying to remove its use altogether.
According to unverified reports, Tesla will be able to produce vehicles for ten thousand dollars less by using cobalt-free batteries. Yet, as of the time of writing this article, no credible explanation has been provided by any of the famous vehicle companies.
- BMW Cobalt Requirements
Quite apart from the violations of human rights and the environmental damage that cobalt mining poses, BMW signed a long-term agreement with Managem CTT, a Moroccan cobalt mining corporation. This company harvests the material from the world’s only pure cobalt mine, which is located in Morocco.
BMW intends to use cobalt from this mine to make light ion batteries for its electric vehicles. The agreement was inked in 2019 and is worth 122 million dollars, representing around 20% of BMW’s cobalt demand from now until 2025. The agreement calls for 3.9 kilo tons of cobalt to be delivered to BMW over the next five years, with Glenn Core supplying the remaining 80 tons.
- Battery Day Event
Although BMW and other electric vehicle manufacturers are attempting to acquire cobalt supplies, Tesla wants to go in a different path. During its battery day event, the firm revealed intentions to create batteries in-house rather than obtaining them from battery manufacturers. Nevertheless, no timetable has been provided for when Tesla would replace in-house batteries with bought counterparts.
Every year, up to 130,000 tons are mined globally, largely as a byproduct of copper and nickel, with the DRC accounting for two-thirds of the global supply. The number is likely to climb this year and next because production did not cease. This is due to the fact that the DR Congo, like many other African countries, avoided the negative consequences of the pandemic scenario.
- The Madagascar’s Ambatovy Mine
Compare that to the Ambatovy mine in Madagascar, which was forced to close owing to the virus. When the global supply chain is seen holistically, the long-term future of cobalt as a vital material for automotive batteries is not viable. To begin with, there is inadequate supply to match the increasing demand, which has continued to rise. The Marin Ambao Azer mine contains cobalt, which cannot be utilized in vehicle batteries until chemically transformed.
Another issue with cobalt is that more than 80% of worldwide processing takes place in China. After Glencore, Chinese enterprises are major miners of the mineral in DRC. When you examine the geographical scheme of things and how China exploits its supply chain dominance to safeguard its imperialist ambitions across the world, this portends a hazardous economic trend for other nations.
Despite the fact that the DR Congo holds more than half of the world’s cobalt deposits, the supply chain from the African country is already saturated, forcing BMW to hunt elsewhere for this commodity.
- Tonnage Available
Tesla has inked an agreement with Glencore for a 6000 ton supply of DRC, which will be shipped to its Shanghai manufacturing. Notwithstanding its aspirations to shift away from cobalt, this acquisition casts doubt on its commitment to producing cobalt-free batteries. With many more electric vehicles set to join our roads in the next decade, automobile batteries will remain in high demand. Glencore, a major cobalt supplier, has agreed to multiple deals, including one with SK Innovation to provide the Korean business with 30,000 tones of cobalt, enough to make batteries for 2 million electric cars.
A agreement has also been struck to provide cobalt to Umikor, a Belgian company, and China’s biggest battery recycler. Even without the Tesla transaction, automakers, recyclers, and battery manufacturers have already reserved 90 percent of Glencore’s supply from the drc for the foreseeable future.
The demand for a fresh approach to battery manufacturing has created a new set of obstacles. For example, the demand to phase out cobalt consumption has increased the market price of alternative materials like as nickel. People such as Mr Musk are campaigning for nickel to replace cobalt, and these calls have led the price of nickel to skyrocket. Yet, it is not the only issue that stakeholders will face.
Nickel is mined in more places throughout the world than cobalt, but its exploitation causes environmental deterioration and land contamination. Nickel mining has damaged indigenous communities’ land in nations such as Russia, and after strong criticism from rights organizations, Elon Musk opted not to acquire nickel from Norilsk Nickel, the business at the center of the storm.
Demand will continue to rise as long as cobalt is used in the manufacture of electric vehicle batteries. However, other minerals thought to be near alternatives harm the environment just as much as cobalt mining. From the outside, the world will not be cleansed until we improve our technologies and discover a better way to do things.
FAQ’s On Geopolitics of EV Batteries
Q1. What is the problem with batteries for electric vehicles?
If EV batteries continue to be made of lithium ion, the following problems must be fixed: 1) labor practices in cobalt mining; 2) environmental impacts of lithium extraction; 3) a sufficient supply of materials for EV batteries; 4) carbon emissions from battery manufacturing; and 5) toxic waste from the disposal of used batteries.
Q2. What is the market potential for EV batteries?
In 2021, the worldwide electric vehicle (EV) battery market was estimated to be worth USD 37.91 billion. The market is expected to increase at a CAGR of 10.5% during the forecast period, from USD 49.22 billion in 2022 to USD 98.97 billion in 2029.
Q3. Who controls the EV battery market?
CATL leads its second-place opponent by more than double the amount of battery consumption in 2022, with 191.6 GWh. As a result, its share of the EV battery market increased to 37%. LG Energy Solution wins silver for the second year in a row, although its market share falls by more than 6%.
Q4. What is the global market for electric vehicle batteries?
The global EV battery market is expected to be valued $56.4 billion in 2022 and $134.6 billion by 2027, increasing at a CAGR of 19.9% between 2022 and 2027.
Q5. What is the promising nature of lithium-ion batteries for e vehicles?
In terms of energy efficiency and power concentration, lithium-ion batteries are superior., with smaller diameters and lighter weight cells, lithium-ion batteries have high volumetric (energy density) and specific energy densities.
Q6. Which batteries are promising for EV applications in future?
Since they do not catch fire, zinc-air batteries outperform lithium-ion batteries. The issue has been that zinc-air batteries are built with pricey components, but the University has discovered a method to employ far cheaper alternatives. As a result, cheaper and safer batteries may be on the way shortly.
Q7. Is battery swapping the future of EV?
Although many states have implemented tight regulations to promote 100% electrification, the battery swapping strategy will tremendously assist India’s ecommerce fleet. The most common complaints expressed by riders were range anxiety, charging duration (it normally takes 2-6 hours to completely charge), and locating a charging station.
Q8. Are EV batteries sustainable?
Fortunately, it’s worth noting that EVs are far more environmentally friendly than gas-powered automobiles. EV batteries are predicted to last around 15-20 years and may be reused and recycled to recover the majority of the raw materials contained inside them.
Q9. Who is the biggest company making EV batteries?
CATL, the world’s largest battery producer, increased its market share from 32% in 2021 to 34% in 2022. The Chinese business supplies one-third of the world’s EV batteries. Tesla, Peugeot, Hyundai, Honda, BMW, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo all use CATL lithium-ion batteries.
Cobalt’s long-term sustainability as an intense for automobile batteries is challenged owing to insufficient supply and rising demand. The negative consequences of cobalt and lithium mining, as well as the geopolitical scheme of things, are harmful to the global economy, particularly China’s supremacy in processing. In the pursuit of clean, renewable energy, producers must seek ethical and ecological solutions.
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