The advent of the electric car is threatened by a few known knowns like range anxiety, high prices, and a thin recharging network, but now, according to a report from the University of Sussex, lurking in the background are possible shortages of the raw materials at the heart of this low-carbon revolution, which threaten to derail the whole project.
Making sure of adequate supplies is so important, mining under the sea, or even on other planets, would be justified, according to the report.
The automotive industry in Europe has been spending massively to embrace the electric car. On Thursday, Europe’s number one auto maker, Volkswagen, raised the stakes of its electric plans by bringing forward its target of producing one million electric cars a year by two years, to the end of 2023. By 2025 this will reach 1.5 million a year.
VW has a 33 billion euro ($37 billion) electric car investment plan through 2024. It has said by 2025, at least 25% of its global sales will be all-electric. Other giants of the European and global industry have similar, if perhaps not quite so adventurous, electric plans. VW didn’t respond to questions about the security of its supplies of important minerals.
But what if the steady supply of crucial minerals was disrupted, like cobalt, copper, lithium, cadmium, and rare earth elements needed for autonomous cars’ photovoltaics, batteries, electric motors, wind turbines, and fuel cells?