Smaller electric vehicles is the solution for shortage of raw materials

As the Western world concerns itself with China’s annexation of most of the raw materials required to manufacture the batteries we need to move our vehicles from ICE to BEV, a new report by Transport & Environment has come up with a simple plan to make our resources go further.

Make smaller batteries and put them in smaller cars.

T&E say we need to manufacture smaller cars like BYD’s Seagul

Transport & Environment, Europe’s leading clean transport campaign group, developed three scenarios in which they predicted the demand of  lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese, between today and 2050. 

The ‘Business as Usual’ scenario follows the currently predicted industry trends on battery size and chemistry, and EV usage. In this case, Europe will require 200 times the battery raw materials it consumed last year to fully decarbonise by 2050.

The ‘Accelerated Innovation and Fewer Car km’ scenario is one in which batteries are smaller and contain less critical metals which assumes a substantial shift to smaller batteries and a faster uptake of battery chemistries with less critical metals, coupled with people driving less.

A ramped up version of the above is the ‘Aggressive Innovation and Fewer Car km’ scenario.

In all those scenarios, the demand for raw materials will increase but the final scenario could cut the demand for key metals lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese by between 36% and 49%.

Reducing battery size would have the greatest effect on the amount of material needed. This would require us to make smaller, lighter vehicles or put up with significantly reduced range.

The problem is, no-one in Europe is doing that. As the report points out: ‘Smaller electric cars, being lighter, would be ideal for less resource intensive chemistries, notably sodium-ion, while guaranteeing sufficient range. But while first models with this chemistry are being sold in China from 2023 (e.g. the BYD Seagull), no commercial plans exist in Europe. It is critical European companies move into this space fast’.

To address this, T&E are calling for an EU-wide strategy to force a shift towards manufacturing smaller (and of course, more affordable) vehicles, incorporating tax incentives and strong industrial policy to commercialise new, less resource intensive chemistries.

Julia Poliscanova, Senior Director, Vehicles & Emobility Supply Chains, at T&E, said: ‘Europe needs to electrify its entire fleet by 2050, but with that comes a growing demand for battery metals. If we are serious about not repeating the mistakes of insatiable oil dependency, then resource efficiency has to play a big role. In a supply constrained world, smaller electric cars are not just an environmental must, but a sound economic and industrial policy.’


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11 months ago

The scenarios developed by Transport & Environment reveal that reducing battery size and adopting less resource-intensive chemistries can significantly cut demand for key metals while still achieving decarbonization goals. However, the report points out that Europe is lagging in the production of smaller, more affordable EVs with such chemistries. To address this, a comprehensive EU-wide strategy is needed, including tax incentives and strong industrial policies to promote the adoption of resource-efficient EVs. Emphasizing resource efficiency is not just an environmental necessity, but also an economic and industrial imperative.

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