Will the electric car run out of minerals?

Heavily dependent on minerals for its design, the electric car could be threatened by a shortage of certain resources if governments do not anticipate tomorrow’s needs today.

While minerals will play a role in achieving the carbon neutrality targeted by various governments, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns that certain materials could run out in the years to come. The agency summed up its concerns in a report titled ” The role of essential minerals in the clean energy transition“. It alerts in particular to the efforts to be made in terms of supply for some of them.

Six times higher mineral requirements for an electric car

If the final results are obviously in favor of the electric car, we know that the latter will be more greedy during its manufacture. It takes a little more than 200 kilos of minerals per electric vehicle, against less than 50 for a thermal car. The latter only uses copper and manganese, where there are six different minerals for an electric vehicle. It takes more than 50 kilos of copper and graphite, but also lithium, nickel and cobalt to form the battery.

In the field of energy, the observation is the same: wind power platforms, at sea or on land, as well as solar panels, consume more resources in manufacturing than the energy produced by nuclear, coal or gas. natural gas.

Six times greater between an electric car and a thermal one, these growing mineral needs are the source of fears for the IEA. The agency anticipates six times higher demands for these materials before 2040, which would be critical. In all the future scenarios imagined by the agency, wind energy takes the major part of the market, ahead of solar. And we know that the electric automobile will irreparably take precedence over cars with gasoline or diesel engines.

Avoid stockouts and soaring prices

Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, fears that problems with mineral shortages may “Disrupt international efforts to fight climate change”.

“Today, data shows a gap between heightened global ambitions and the availability of critical minerals” he explains. “These are essential to the achievement of these ambitions. The challenges are not insurmountable, but governments must send clear signals on how they plan to act for the climate. “By acting now and together, they can drastically reduce the risks of price volatility and supply disruptions”. Indeed, if demand greatly exceeds supply, prices will necessarily soar.

Better invest and better recycle minerals

The report suggests six possible areas of improvement for governments if they wish to succeed in stemming this trend. The first is from better distribute investments and diversify sources of supply. According to the agency, governments can play a fundamental role in this better balance.

The International Energy Agency also offers the promotion of innovative technologies through R&D to make better use of materials. Substituting certain materials and finding other supply possibilities would help both in the production and in the sale of these minerals.

The third point concerns the development of the recycling sector. This will play an essential role in limiting the need for primary resources and better managing products that have reached the end of their life. The IEA also advises governments to strengthen supply chains to avoid dips in the supply. Thus, market transparency would be improved, as would price stability.

The fifth point raised by the IEA is that of environmental and social governance standards. This could make it possible to have durable products and consistent volumes, while lowering production costs. Rewarding players who comply with these standards could help attract other candidates to the market.

Finally, the last point raised is that of the international collaboration between producers and consumers. Based on exchange and transparency, this could allow much more efficient live monitoring. Market vulnerabilities would thus be more easily identified.


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