Analysis by Transport & Environment has highlighted that electric vehicles consume far less raw material than fossil-fuelled cars.
The study by T&E shows that the weight of petrol or diesel that is burned during the average lifetime of a vehicle is around 300-400 times more than the total quantity of battery cells metals ‘lost’. To put into context, over its lifetime, an average ICE car burns close to 17,000 litres of petrol, which is the equivalent of a stack of oil barrels 90 metres high.
In comparison, an EV, under the EU’s current recycling recovery rate, will lose only about 390 kilograms of metals, which according to the study will be the size of a football.
The work by Transport & Environment has shown that there will be other substantial benefits from switching to electric vehicles. Less raw material will be needed over time as technology keeps advancing. The amount of lithium needed in future batteries for electric vehicles will be slashed by half over the next decade.
Also, Europe will need to import less raw material because of recycling as according to the study estimates in 2035 over a fifth of the lithium and nickel, and 65% of the cobalt, needed to make a new battery could come from recycling.
The all-electric revolution might be closer than we think as T&E calculates that there will be 460 GWh (in 2025) and 700 GWh (in 2030) of battery production in Europe – enough to meet the demand of electric cars.
The estimates of the study simply point to one conclusion and that is that internal combustion engines are unstainable, according to Lucien Mathieu, a transport analyst at T&E and an author of the report.
“Our analysis shows that the raw material needs of EV batteries pale in comparison to the fuel burned by fossil fuel cars, which, unlike batteries, cannot be recycled,” he said. “When it comes to raw materials there is simply no comparison.”
On the overall energy efficiency of vehicles, T&E calculations suggest that battery electric cars will use 58% less energy than a petrol car over its lifetime and emit 64% less carbon dioxide.
However, we have reported that in order to achieve a circular economy with the raw material of the batteries and save as much metals as possible, there is a need of a wide recycling infrastructure and at the moment the United Kingdom does not possess one. However, UK battery startup Britishvolt is planning to make recycling a central part of its cell production process.