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Battery resources

Batteries in e-vehicles – what are they made of?

Resources for the mobility transition

20.04.2020 |

By 2030, six million electric cars will be on the road in Germany. An average electric vehicle battery contains about 10 kilograms of cobalt. This means that only in Germany 60 million kilograms of cobalt would be needed for batteries.

The big cities of the future should be as green as possible: Buses should be electric, e-cars are becoming increasingly attractive and e-bikes and e-scooters are becoming more and more popular. But what are those batteries made of? Where do their raw materials come from and under what conditions are they mined?


Material in E-Batteries cathode

 

All modern batteries are composed of mineral raw materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and graphite. Two types of lithium-ion batteries have become established in the field of e-mobility, which differ mainly in the composition of the cathode:
- Nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) battery
- Nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) battery
An average NMC battery, for example, contains 11 kilograms of manganese, 4.5 kilograms of lithium and 12 kilograms of nickel and cobalt.

What does that mean? Substantial amounts of raw materials are needed for electric cars. The growing demand for these raw materials for the energy and mobility transition will not be met by material savings in other sectors or recycling alone. As a consequence, the extraction of new raw material deposits will remain necessary - at least until circular economies for mineral raw materials become a reality, or technical alternatives are discovered. The World Bank forecasts a significant increase in demand for the above-mentioned raw materials. The chart below shows the future demand for raw materials only for electric vehicle batteries for the year 2035, with estimates indicating that the demand for nickel will increase by 476% compared to the 2016 level. For lithium these estimates are even more extreme: the amount needed could increase by almost 650 % compared to 2016.


Future mineral demand for EV batteries in 2035

 

 

 


Apart from the four minerals listed, numerous other raw materials are needed for the energy and transport sector. Moreover, e-vehicles should be charged using green energy rather than coal-fired power whenever possible. This will require for example new wind turbines and solar cells. The production of these also requires a variety of raw materials (e.g. copper) as well as rare earth elements.

The global market for electric batteries is currently extremely dependent on China. China is the main importer of most raw materials. All production steps from the import of minerals to the export of battery cells are dominated by Chinese companies. In extraordinary times such as the current corona pandemic, the effects of such dependencies along the supply chain for the global market are more noticeable than ever.

Improved recycling and a resulting circular economy could provide a remedy in the future. Many of the listed raw materials have recycling potential, but as of today only a few are recycled in Europe.

The Sector Programme (SP) Extractives and Development (X4D) of the GIZ, commissioned by the BMZ, deals with a wide range of issues relating to battery raw materials. From now on, we will shed light on a specific battery raw material in detail for the next four weeks starting with lithium.


Poster Batterierohstoffe

Further information:

Here you will find posters with further information on the composition and content of an electric vehicle battery, as well as further information on the countries where the battery raw materials are mined and the problems associated with their extraction.

Together with the SP Mobility of GIZ, the SP (X4D) organised a webinar last month entitled "Raw materials for global battery production - challenges and opportunities", which was recorded and can be accessed here.

For further information please contact Johannes Lohmeyer.

 

 

 


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