Where Do The Materials For Electric Car Batteries Come From

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How Rare Metals Are Mined

When solid-state batteries arrive, you’ll want an electric car

The process of mining the rare metals varies depending on the mine, however our Electric Cars Arent Green? sums up how some of the mines operate:

At a mine in Jiangxi, China, workers use ammonium sulfate poured into big holes to dissolve the clay.

  • Whats left is hauled out of the ever-expanding hole, before being run through multiple acid baths to dissolve other unwanted compounds.
  • The resulting compounds are baked in a kiln, finally revealing the rare metals required in electric car batteries.
  • Just 0.2% of the result is the rare metals the other 99.8% is waste.
  • This 99.8% waste earth which is now contaminated with toxic material is dumped back into the originally-created holes.

Many of these rare earth mining processes also unleashes plumes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, and can harm aquatic life in nearby rivers and streams too. Finally, 50-60% of cobalt comes from the Congo, which unfortunately has a poor human rights record with 40,000 children working in cobalt mines for $1-2 per day.

The reason we are mentioning this in a making of article is because car manufacturers are rightly concerned about the chemical composition of their EV batteries, and they are working on tweaking the metal composition to reduce the dependence on some of the worse metals such as cobalt and nickel. Hence the material list that we mentioned towards the start of this article might start to change throughout 2020-2030.

Electric Car Battery Disposal

So what happens when electric car batteries die? Batteries of all forms can prove difficult to dispose of without harming the environment. The same goes for EV batteries. However, EV battery life cycle management works towards solving expensive and toxic disposal of the batteries.

As well as being used to support the use of renewable energy, EV batteries can be refurbished to help power more vehicles in the future. Volkswagen Group has plans to start a recycling project that will see batteries assessed on their quality to determine their future. The batteries with some power left will be given a second life as power packs for mobile vehicle charging. The others that have little to give, will be ground down to a fine powder to extract raw materials such as lithium, nickel, manganese and lithium. The materials can then be rebuilt into more EV batteries.

Electric Car Batteries Environmental Impact

Are electric car batteries bad for the environment? Well, we’re here to tell you that the future of EV batteries looks bright.

EV batteries can be fed back into the energy cycle for factories, and homes once its life powering a car has come to an end. Repurposing EV batteries could create a closed-loop system for recycling. Meaning that the factories that produce the batteries could eventually be powered using the repurposed batteries once their lives powering vehicles comes to an end.

Large car manufacturers have already begun to repurpose EV batteries in other areas. For example, Nissan plans to use retired EV batteries to provide back-up power to the Amsterdam ArenA the world-famous entertainment venue and home to Ajax Football Club.

Toyota also plans to install retired batteries outside convenience stores in Japan in the near future. The batteries will be used to store power generated from solar panels. The energy stored will then be used to support the power of drink fridges, food warmers and fresh food counters inside stores.

With more of these opportunities arising, there will clearly be life beyond an EV. Once a battery has finished powering an electric vehicle, it can be used to power our homes and businesses.

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Electric Vehicle Battery Safety

EVs must undergo the same rigorous safety testing and meet the same safety standards required for conventional vehicles sold in the United States as well as EV-specific standards for limiting chemical spillage from batteries, securing batteries during a crash, and isolating the chassis from the high-voltage system to prevent electric shock. In addition, EVs tend to have a lower center of gravity than conventional vehicles, making them less likely to roll over and often improving ride quality.

Where Do The Materials To Make Batteries Come From

Battery Powerzone

While the majority of lithium-ion batteries are produced in China, the materials that go into them are scattered across the globe. Here are the most common :

Material
China ExtractionAluminum is a product of alumina smelting, which in turn is produced from bauxite, an ore mined from topsoil.

All mined minerals undergo refining, often in countries other than their origin.

Mining isnt the immediate source of the organic solvents and synthetic polymers contained in lithium-ion batteries, although their primary components are extracted from the Earth. Heres a simplified summary of their production:

  • Alkylcarbonates, like diethyl carbonate, are synthesized from phosgene, a gas, and alcohols like ethanol or methanol.
  • Polyolefin-based membranes are synthesized from oil- or natural gas-derived polymers.

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Where Does The Cobalt Used In Electric Car Batteries Come From

As someone looking into buying my first electric vehicle, Iâm trying to learn as much about the manufacturing process as possible so that I can make the most ethical choice. Iâve noticed that a huge component of making the lithium-ion batteries in electric cars requires cobalt, but that many electric car makers are trying to transition away from using it entirely. Why is this, and where does cobalt come from?

The majority of cobalt used in electric car batteries comes from mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • The high demand for electric vehicles far outpaces the rate at which cobalt can be extracted. While the material has been popular for how it impacts battery life and longevity, it simply cannot be extracted at rates comparable to the current demand for EVS.
  • Cobalt is extremely difficult to extract.
  • Cobalt is expensive. The demand for electric cars has never been higher, but the difficulty and expense of extracting cobalt in combination with controversy over mining practices have led many electric vehicle manufacturers to look towards a future where cobalt can be eliminated from rechargeable batteries entirely.
  • There are ethical concerns surrounding the current extractions methods for acquiring cobalt.

What Materials Are In Electric Car Batteries

As stated before, almost all electric cars use lithium-ion batteries. Lead-based batteries were used in some very early electric cars but have been phased out almost completely. Other types of batteries are also currently in the works, but none have been officially released or commercially used as of now but in the future, this may change.

Lithium-ion batteries are currently one of the most popular batteries used for more complicated electronics like computers, smartphones, tablets, and other rechargeable electronics. As the battery market continues to increase, so does the need for the materials that make up these batteries as well as materials that are used in the production of these batteries.

Lots of different materials are used in the production and end result of electric car batteries, most notably lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite. Copper, steel, and plastic can also be found in some batteries for electrical or structural purposes. Some of these materials can be considered to be less common when compared to others but none of them are extremely rare. These materials are processed and put together to make the large battery which generally includes a cooling system and electrical power management system. They are shaped and built specifically to fit whatever car, phone, or laptop they are needed to power.

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Where Do We Find The Rest Of The Battery

Graphite

Graphite reserves are dominated by three countries: Turkey , Brazil and China , but production is presently dominated by China. An estimate of 2015 production reported that China produced up to 82% of the worlds total, but there are often discrepancies in reporting.

Graphite can also be synthetically derived, but only natural graphite is considered here, as it is currently easier to produce.

Cobalt

Some materials needed for batteries are not extracted and refined in the same place. This is particularly true for cobalt: in 2015, Democratic Republic of Congo produced most of the mined cobalt, but China was the largest producer of the refined metal.

After these two major players, Canada and Australia play moderately important roles in both mining and refining. Australia is second on the list of reserves of cobalt, with around 14% of global reserves.

Nickel

Nickel is the least centralised of the metals considered here. It is found widely, mined widely, and in 2015, the dominant producers only held estimated shares of up to 20% and 30% . Australia is thought to have 24% of global reserves.

Environmentally, the extraction of cobalt and nickel is driven by the type and grade of ores, and their location.

Typically, ores that are easier to mine and extract are already being exploited, leaving deeper, more complex deposits for the future.

Short Term Material Availability

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According to lobbying group Transport & Environment , there is enough lithium and nickel available to produce 14 million EVs globally in 2023, which is 55% higher than current market projections. However, with competition to secure these materials around the world, governments need to ensure they are negotiating now, or risk their markets being left behind.

Despite what people say, there is no shortage of lithium or nickel in Earths crust. It is only a shortage of political will that leaves Europe vulnerable to supply squeezes, Julia Poliscanova, senior director at T& E, commented.

In 2025, there would be enough lithium and nickel to build a further 21 million BEVs, even if raw material supplies tighten and remain below battery-factory capacity T& Es study shows. This would still be 50% more than market estimates.

But while this may allow for expansion in the electric-vehicle market, the abundant reserves would not guarantee Europe could come out on top in the race to electrify its market.

While China and the US are flexing their policy muscle to secure supplies of critical metals, European leaders are scouring the globe for more oil, Poliscanova added. Now is the time to focus on sourcing the sustainable raw materials the continent needs for our energy independence and a green future.

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Electric Vehicle Battery Lifespan

Like the engines in conventional vehicles, the advanced batteries in EVs are designed for a long life but will wear out eventually. Currently, most manufacturers are offering 8-year/100,000-mile warranties for their batteries. Nissan is providing additional battery capacity loss coverage for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Manufacturers have also extended their coverage in states that have adopted the California emissions warranty coverage periods, which require at least 10-year coverage for batteries on partial zero-emissions vehicles .

What Are The Issues With Mining Materials

All mining has social and environmental impacts. Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, often involves inhumane conditions, as well as slave and child labor. Consequently, manufacturers like Tesla are aiming to use cobalt-free lithium-ion batteries. While mining sources for other minerals may have fewer social impacts, they still require environmental destruction, deplete water resources, and contribute to air, water, and soil pollution.

Mining creates environmental destruction, depletes water resources, and contributes to air, water, and soil pollution.

Material extraction is only the first step. Processing of minerals like lithium usually requires toxic chemicals. Refineries typically dispose of waste in tailings piles or evaporation ponds. From here, poisonous fluids can leak into the environment to contaminate the soil and water. Even processed water may still contain traces of the minerals, which can have adverse effects on humans and animals.

Unfortunately, production isnt where the trouble ends.

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There Are Three Main Types Of Batteries Used Today:

Lithium-ion, Nickel Metal Hydride , and Lead Acid Batteries. These batteries can be charged using either AC or DC power. Each type has advantages and disadvantages.

NiMH

NiMH batteries are cheap but have a memory effect. When theyre used, they remember theyve been charged, and they wont last as long as they once did. NiMH batteries are often found in toys and remote controls.

Lithium-Ion

Lithium-ion batteries are safe, lightweight, and powerful. They are commonly found in portable electronics, such as laptops, smartphones, and video cameras. Lithium-ion technology is considered state-of-the-art. Its the best choice if you want the highest capacity and lowest cost per kWh. Lithium-ion costs less than nickel-metal hydride batteries, but its heavier.

Lead Acid

Lead-acid batteries are inexpensive and very common. They are used in everything from radios to golf carts. Lead-acid batteries are dangerous if damaged or overcharged. If you damage a lead-acid battery, it could explode.

The Top 25 Nations Supplying Battery Metals

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Some countries are more crucial than others to the battery metal supply chain. BloombergNEF ranked the top 25 countries according to the following methodology:

  • First, they tallied the mineral resources, mining capacity, and refining capacity in 2020 and projected commissioned capacity by 2025 for the five key metals listed above in each country.
  • Then, to determine the overall score for each country, BloombergNEF categorized the countries capacities into five bands. Countries in the lowest band received a score of 1 and those in the highest band received a score of 5.
  • The overall score is the result of averaging the scores across the five categories for each country.
  • Now that we have a better understanding of how the rankings work, here are the top 25 nations for raw materials in the Li-ion supply chain in 2020 and 2025.

    Chinas dominance in the rankings shows that refining capacity is just as important, if not more, as access to raw materials and mining capacity.

    China does not boast an abundance of battery metal deposits but ranks first largely due to its control over 80% of global raw material refining capacity. Additionally, China is the worlds largest producer of graphite, the primary anode material for Li-ion batteries.

    Australia comes in at number two due to its massive lithium production capacity and nickel reserves. Following Australia is Brazil, one of the worlds top 10 producers of graphite, nickel, manganese, and lithium.

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    Where Can We Find Lithium

    Getting lithium into a battery is not simply a matter of digging it up.

    The current major producers of lithium are Australia, Chile, Argentina and China, with Australia and Chile accounting for about 75% of the total.

    These four countries also have the largest reserves of lithium. Chile, in particular, is thought to have more than 50% of known economic reserves .

    However, Argentina and Bolivia have so far identified more than 9 million tonnes each in lithium resources .

    Because of the concentration of reserves in South America, the regions of highest lithium potential are often referred to as the lithium triangle. If battery power replaced oil, some analysts predict that South America would become the new Middle East.

    Batteries Must Enter The Circular Economy

    The production of rechargeable batteries from mined minerals has social and environmental impacts and the natural resources are finite. As demand for this technology continues to increase, both manufacturers and consumers have to step up their recycling game. Manufacturers need to come up with designs that make it easier to remove batteries, disassemble them, and extract individual materials. Meanwhile, consumers should responsibly dispose of spent batteries or old electronics to ensure they enter suitable recycling streams.

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    Why You Shouldnt Throw Batteries In The Trash

    Lithium-ion batteries can cause fires when exposed to heat, mechanical stress, or other waste materials. Once exposed, the elements contained in the batteries could leach into the environment and contaminate the soil and groundwater. While this shouldnt present an issue at a well-managed domestic facility, exported trash might end up at a more lenient landfill. Richa et al. note that the greater risk is loss of valuable materials.

    Sufficiently concentrated natural resources of lithium, cobalt, nickel, and other elements are finite. As discussed above, their mining has irreversible consequences. By the time these materials end up in our gadgets, weve paid a high social and environmental price for damage done along their supply chains.

    Before long, demand for some materials will exceed mining yields. One recent study projects that lithium and cobalt demand could exceed production as soon as 2025. When you then take into account that, on average, spent lithium-ion battery electrodes contain more Lithium than natural ores, youll quickly come to the conclusion that even dead batteries have value.

    As demand outpaces mining capacities, recycling morphs from an ethical obligation to an economically viable alternative, and possibly a necessity.

    How Do Electric Car Batteries Work

    MG Electric Car Batteries How Are They Built?

    Electric vehicles are powered by packs of 2000+ batteries. EV batteries are lighter than those found in conventional combustion engine cars and last longer. EV batteries are similar to those in laptops and cell phones.

    EV batteries use 2,000+ individual lithium-ion cells. Lithium-ion batteries are safer and cheaper than lead-acid batteries.

    Electric vehicles use electric energy to recharge themselves when parked. When theyre driving, electric cars use electrical energy to move forward. Electric vehicles are powered by large packs of rechargeable batteries.

    EV batteries are lighter than those in traditional combustion engine cars. EV battery packs consist of thousands of individual lithium-ion cells. Lithium-ion batteries are safer than lead-acid batteries. EV batteries last longer than those in traditional combustion engines. Electric cars use batteries to store energy.

    During charging, the batteries are filled with electricity, but during driving, the batteries are discharged. This process is called discharging. To prevent the batteries from over-discharging, a BMS keeps them from getting too low. Electric vehicles use batteries instead of fuel. Batteries are smaller than those used by conventional vehicles, but they last longer.

    A battery consists of many thousands of individual cells. Lithium-ion batteries are used in laptops, cell phones, and other portable devices.

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