The world is changing are so are its needs and priorities. Long gone are times when the only thing businesses could focus on is profits. With the need for change and perseverance in the face of the deterioration that we have caused our planet. Now businesses have to think better for the society, environment and the planet. We see these mandatory changes with respect to corporate social responsibility, the collaboration of businesses with not-for-profit organisations that aim at helping businesses get more social and environmentally friendly and switch of not so friendly inputs.
In a similar attempt, electric cars that are the new hot trend these days are expected to switch to green, carbon-free batteries for a more ethically prominent tomorrow in terms of the automobile industry and the global future. These ethically-sourced batteries that are expected to play a major role in the ever-increasing electric car industry are said to hail as the beginning of a road to a better, eco-friendlier world as the said industry is said to claim a certain lucrative position in the future, and well, we can’t deny it. However, these lithium-ion batteries being talked about comes with their own set of terms, that needs more work than we may see at this point. Here are some facts to help us understand what is actually happening and what some things that need to be pondered upon in the coming future are.
Electric cars came more into the limelight owing to their eco-friendlier nature when compared to petrol and diesel-run cars, apart from the fact that they are super cool. Unlike motor vehicles that run on the internal combustion engine, electric vehicles have an electric motor, which means electric vehicles create little noise, no pollution where they are used and require much less maintenance as they have far fewer moving parts than internal combustion cars. So, whoever said electric vehicles are the new future is most probably right because Gen Z definitely cares about the environment and as long as electric cars are an ally of it, we can see them be our go-to. Electric vehicles are powered by fuel cells that generate electricity from hydrogen or a lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack. Each cell in the battery pack contains a positive electrode, usually containing lithium and cobalt, and a negative electrode containing graphite. Well, the basic purpose of all this detail was to explain the fact that as the atoms move between the cell’s electrodes, they create power that drives the motor. This basically implies how lithium-ion batteries use these cells as a much greener alternative for the combustion fuels like petrol, diesel or even CNG.
As an effect of people growing more and more conscious of the needs and priorities of the environment, The European Commission predicted that the number of electric vehicles on the road will increase ten-fold to 200 million in the next 7 years.
Now, note that these batteries that we talked about constitute up to 40 per cent of the total cost of the electric vehicle, which to be fair is considerably higher than other motor vehicles as we are aware. As of right now, China controls about two-thirds of worldwide cell manufacturing, leaving behind portions as small as three per cent for others like the European Union. With the current conflict between China and the USA or more generally many other world countries, the EU hopes to increase its share of worldwide cell manufacturing for electric vehicles from the current three per cent to about twenty-five per cent by the time the demand is expected to increase ten-folds, i.e. by 2028. In an attempt to fulfil the commitment, Last year the bloc approved 3.2 billion euros of state subsidies from France, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Belgium and Poland to stimulate a European battery industry and meet home-grown demand. So far plans for a number of giant European “gigafactories” have been unveiled, including a colossal Tesla plant in Germany and a $1 billion facility in Sweden part-funded by Volkswagen.
These batteries, like any other thing, have their own drawbacks too, all in terms of physical, human and social costs. Consider for a fact that these batteries are electrically charge-able implying that they need coal-fired or nuclear-generated electricity to function. So even though electric cars make no sue of coal and thus don’t lead to carbon footprints, these batteries do, with the former being incomplete without the latter. Not just that, mining chemicals for use in the batteries also have a significant environmental cost attached to it as we have been witnessing for many years now. It also risks the leakage of toxic substances to leak into waterways. Along with environmental cost, it has a human cost attached to it too in the sense that over 50 per cent of the world’s cobalt, which is a key raw material for making the batteries, currently comes from the mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where organisations such as Amnesty have documented rights abuses and the use of child labour. It is also to be noted that industry watchers have claimed that the availability of global supply of cobalt in the near future may not be enough to meet the growing demand, meaning that if the key raw material goes missing, entire production could come to a halt, until found a way out, especially considering that the battery recycling opportunities are currently very limited.
All in all, it can be said that we still have a long way to go in terms of development in the field of battery production and procurement. The fact that cells take a long time to charge, only a limited distance can be travelled in one go and the cells are expensive to produce, all add up to the margin of the scope of development. Even with other prominent alternatives for the battery cells like Ultium and Hydrogen fuel cells are coming into play, only time will tell what the industry has in store for the world.