A story in ‘Garage Wire’ to help promote NOT ditching your diesel car just yet

Published: 10 June 2019

UK electric cars will need twice the world’s supply of cobalt

Scientists warn of “huge implications" as government continues electric car push

A team of scientists has written to the Committee of Climate Change warning that government plans to replace the UK’s 31.5 million cars with electric vehicles by 2050 will require almost twice the current annual global supply of cobalt.

The experts have also calculated that based on the latest battery technology (80 per cent nickel, 10 per cent cobalt, 10 per cent manganese), UK demand for EV batteries will require almost the total amount of neodymium produced globally each year, three quarter’s of the world’s lithium, and “at least half” of the world’s copper.

The letter, authored by a team of eight scientists headed by the Natural History Museum’s head of earth sciences, professor Richard Herrington, explains that to replace the UK’s cars with EVs will require 207,900 tonnes of cobalt, 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate and “at least” 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium, as well as 2,362,500 tonnes of copper.

The Committee on Climate Change, an independent statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008, has previously called for all new cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2035.

The scientists say that mining the battery materials necessary to replace the two billion cars in the world would require four times the UK’s total annual electrical output.

Estimates put the extra power required for all UK cars to be electric at 63 TWh a year, a 20 per cent increase over current generation levels.

Professor Herrington said: “The urgent need to cut CO2 emissions to secure the future of our planet is clear, but there are huge implications for our natural resources.

“Our role as scientists is to provide the evidence for how best to move towards a zero-carbon economy – society needs to understand that there is a raw material cost of going green.”

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