Electric vehicles (EVs) are no longer a futuristic concept; they are here, reshaping the automotive industry with every mile driven. What sets these vehicles apart is not just their battery-powered engines or silent rides, but the complex blend of metals that form their core. From lithium to cobalt, each metal plays a crucial role, yet they bring with them a web of supply and environmental challenges.
In recent years, the EV market has witnessed explosive growth. In 2021 alone, global sales of electric cars doubled to a record 6.6 million, making up 9% of the global car market. This surge is a clear indicator of a seismic shift in consumer preferences toward more sustainable modes of transportation.
However, this shift is not without its challenges. The metals critical for EV production, such as lithium used in batteries, are finite and predominantly sourced from a handful of countries. For instance, just three countries – Australia, Chile, and China – account for over 75% of the world’s lithium production. Similarly, over 70% of the world’s cobalt, essential for battery stability and longevity, comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, often under conditions marred by ethical concerns.
This growing demand for EV-specific metals is creating a new dynamic in the global supply chain. It raises questions about the sustainability of their extraction and processing, considering the environmental impact and the geopolitical tensions it may fuel.