Seems like Electric Cars, Solar and Wind Power will need more mining for those materials to save us from the Climate crazies out there screaming ‘the sky is falling’….ugh! – Mick Raven
The raw-materials challenge How the metals and mining sector will be at the core of enabling the energy transition
January 10, 2022
As the world gears up for net zero, demand for raw materials is set to soar. The energy transition presents unique challenges for metals and mining companies, which will need to innovate and rebuild their growth agenda.
Requirements for additional supply will come not only from relatively large-volume raw materials—for example, copper for electrification and nickel for battery EVs, which are expected to see significant demand growth beyond their current applications—but also from relatively niche commodities, such as lithium and cobalt for batteries, tellurium for solar panels, and neodymium for the permanent magnets used both in wind power generation and EVs (Exhibit 1). Some commodities—most notably, steel—will also play an enabling role across technologies requiring additional infrastructure.
Lithium mine supply, for example, would need to grow by around a factor of seven versus today’s required growth. Other metals, such as copper and nickel, would also need to see accelerated supply growth compared with what has been observed in the past.
How much CO2 is emitted by manufacturing batteries
The original version of this Article (How much CO2 is emitted by manufacturing batteries MIT Climate Portal – February 16, 2022) does not include ‘David Keith, a professor at the MIT’ he was added recently to push the Electric Car uptake – Mick Raven
Updated July 15, 2022
Lithium-ion batteries are a popular power source for clean technologies like electric vehicles, due to the amount of energy they can store in a small space, charging capabilities, and ability to remain effective after hundreds, or even thousands, of charge cycles.
These batteries are a crucial part of current efforts to replace gas-powered cars that emit CO2 and other greenhouse gases. These same capabilities also make these batteries good candidates for energy storage for the electric grid. However, that does come with a cost, as the manufacturing process of the batteries and their components emits CO2, among other environmental and social concerns.
The production process
Producing lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles is more material-intensive than producing traditional combustion engines, and the demand for battery materials is rising, explains Yang Shao-Horn, JR East Professor of Engineering in the MIT Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. Currently, most lithium is extracted from hard rock mines or underground brine reservoirs, and much of the energy used to extract and process it comes from CO2-emitting fossil fuels. Particularly in hard rock mining, for every tonne of mined lithium, 15 tonnes of CO2 are emitted into the air.
Battery materials come with other costs, too. Mining raw materials like lithium, cobalt, and nickel is labor-intensive, requires chemicals and enormous amounts of water—frequently from areas where water is scarce—and can leave contaminants and toxic waste behind. 60% of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where questions about human rights violations such as child labor continue to arise.
Manufacturing also adds to these batteries’ eco-footprint, Shao-Horn says. To synthesize the materials needed for production, heat between 800 to 1,000 degrees Celsius is needed—a temperature that can only cost-effectively be reached by burning fossil fuels, which again adds to CO2 emissions.
Exactly how much CO2 is emitted in the long process of making a battery can vary a lot depending on which materials are used, how they’re sourced, and what energy sources are used in manufacturing. The vast majority of lithium-ion batteries—about 77% of the world’s supply—are manufactured in China, where coal is the primary energy source. (Coal emits roughly twice the amount of greenhouse gases as natural gas, another fossil fuel that can be used in high-heat manufacturing.)
For illustration, the Tesla Model 3 holds an 80 kWh lithium-ion battery. CO2 emissions for manufacturing that battery would range between 2400 kg (almost two and a half metric tons) and 16,000 kg (16 metric tons).1 Just how much is one ton of CO2? As much as a typical gas-powered car emits in about 2,500 miles of driving—just about the same weight as a great white shark!
Researchers across the globe are trying to design new manufacturing processes or new battery chemistries that can work with more readily available, environmentally-friendly materials, but these technologies aren’t yet available on a wide scale. “If we don’t change how we make materials, how we make chemicals, how we manufacture, everything will essentially stay the same,” Shao-Horn says.
“An electric vehicle running on [electricity generated with] coal has the fuel economy equivalent in the order of about 50 to 60 miles per gallon equivalent,” says David Keith, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management who studies the emergence of new technologies in the automotive industry. “So the dirtiest electric vehicle looks something like our best gasoline vehicles that are available today.”
And an electric vehicle running on electricity generated by hydropower, solar, wind or other low-carbon energy sources can be significantly cleaner. “In New England or the Pacific Northwest, the fuel economy equivalent of an EV is into the hundreds: 110-120 miles per gallon equivalent,” says Keith.
– Conflict of Interest? – Mick Raven
More links to this Article
Every major carmaker has plans for electric vehicles to cut greenhouse gas emissions, yet their manufacturers are, by and large, making lithium-ion batteries in places with some of the most polluting grids in the world.
By 2021, capacity will exist to build batteries for more than 10 million cars running on 60 kilowatt-hour packs, according to data of Bloomberg NEF. Most supply will come from places like China, Thailand, Germany and Poland that rely on non-renewable sources like coal for electricity.
The findings, among the more bearish ones around, show that while electric cars are emission-free on the road, they still discharge a lot of the carbon-dioxide that conventional cars do.
Just to build each car battery—weighing upwards of 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) in size for sport-utility vehicles—would emit up to 74% more C02 than producing an efficient conventional car if it’s made in a factory powered by fossil fuels in a place like Germany, according to Berylls’ findings.
Generating the electricity used to charge EVs, however, may create carbon pollution. The amount varies widely based on how local power is generated, e.g., using coal or natural gas
Some studies have shown that making a typical electric vehicle (EV) can create more carbon pollution than making a gasoline car. This is because of the additional energy required to manufacture an EV’s battery.
Food for thought….The new ‘Gold Rush’ – Mickm Raven