Reducing the use of scarce metals — and recycling them — will be key to the world’s transition to electric vehicles.
The age of the electric car is upon us. Earlier this year, the US automobile giant General Motors announced that it aims to stop selling petrol-powered and diesel models by 2035.
Audi, based in Germany, plans to stop producing such vehicles by 2033. Many other automotive multinationals have issued similar road maps. Suddenly, major carmakers’ foot-dragging on electrifying their fleets is turning into a rush for the exit.
The electrification of personal mobility is picking up speed in a way that even its most ardent proponents might not have dreamt of just a few years ago. In many countries, government mandates will accelerate change. But even without new policies or regulations, half of global passenger-vehicle sales in 2035 will be electric, according to the BloombergNEF (BNEF) consultancy in London.
This massive industrial conversion marks a “shift from a fuel-intensive to a material-intensive energy system”, declared the International Energy Agency (IEA) in May.
In the coming decades, hundreds of millions of vehicles will hit the roads, carrying massive batteries inside them (see ‘Going electric’). And each of those batteries will contain tens of kilograms of materials that have yet to be mined.
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