Electro-mobility: resources for the transition to green transport

Recycling must supplement resource extraction

Even if the number of electric vehicles on German roads increases significantly by the year 2050 the resource requirement for electro-mobility can be met. Global deposits of lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite and platinum are far in excess of the projected demand. These are the findings of a new analysis by the Oeko-Institut, commissioned by Agora Verkehrswende. Nevertheless, resource security needs to be at the top of the political agenda, so that electro-mobility can develop without temporary shortages. Furthermore, the highest possible environmental and social standards must be maintained when resources are extracted.

Recycling must supplement resource extraction

Taking lithium as an example, it is clear that temporary shortages and price rises for individual resources may still occur. Lithium is currently the principal element in all lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. The scenarios calculated by the Oeko-Institut show that, while in 2015 a total of a further 35,000 tonnes of lithium were extracted, the amount needed for electric transport will rise to just under 160,000 tonnes for 2030 and just under 500,000 tonnes for 2050. To put this into context, global lithium resources stand at around 47 million tonnes.

Nevertheless, demand for the raw material can be suppressed by using recycled secondary material as well. In the case of lithium a ratio of ten per cent can be achieved by 2030, with 40 per cent by 2050. However, to date no lithium recycling is yet being carried out in Europe. Rapid developments are needed both in Europe and worldwide, and more research must be undertaken in this field.

“Strategien für eine nachhaltige Rohstoffversorgung für die Elektromobilität. Synthesepapier zum Rohstoffbedarf für Batterien und Brennstoffzellen” (Strategies for a sustainable resource supply for electro-mobility: synthesis paper on resource requirements for batteries and fuel cells – in German only) - Study by the Oeko-Institut on behalf of Agora Verkehrswende