UK electric cars will need twice the world’s supply of cobalt

Scientists warn of “huge implications" as government continues electric car push

UK electric cars will need twice the world’s supply of cobalt

A team of scientists has written to the Committee of Climate Change warning that government plans to replace the UK’s 31.5 million cars with electric vehicles by 2050 will require almost twice the current annual global supply of cobalt.

The experts have also calculated that based on the latest battery technology (80 per cent nickel, 10 per cent cobalt, 10 per cent manganese), UK demand for EV batteries will require almost the total amount of neodymium produced globally each year, three quarter’s of the world’s lithium, and “at least half” of the world’s copper.

The letter, authored by a team of eight scientists headed by the Natural History Museum’s head of earth sciences, professor Richard Herrington, explains that to replace the UK’s cars with EVs will require 207,900 tonnes of cobalt, 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate and “at least” 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium, as well as 2,362,500 tonnes of copper.

The Committee on Climate Change, an independent statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008, has previously called for all new cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2035.

The scientists say that mining the battery materials necessary to replace the two billion cars in the world would require four times the UK’s total annual electrical output.

Estimates put the extra power required for all UK cars to be electric at 63 TWh a year, a 20 per cent increase over current generation levels.

Professor Herrington said: “The urgent need to cut CO2 emissions to secure the future of our planet is clear, but there are huge implications for our natural resources.

“Our role as scientists is to provide the evidence for how best to move towards a zero-carbon economy – society needs to understand that there is a raw material cost of going green.”

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  • #179434 Reply
    Les Asquith

    Excellent article, it’s about time someone looked into the wider implications of saving the planet.
    The operation may be a success but if the patient dies it all becomes a bit pointless.

    #179969 Reply
    Peter fearnley

    Don’t worry too much about the abolition of fossil fuels for transport or electricity generation it hasn’t been through about in anything like enough detail or even basics to be achieved in the timescale talked about unless we are not being told all the facts about the technology coming

    #180078 Reply
    Andrew Parsons

    I have said this for some time and I’m not a scientist. It was only a few years ago that we were talking of a power crises and lights going out all over the uk, yet now we seem hell bent on this amazing electric future with abundant supplies. Not to mention where all the defunct batteries are going to go!

    #180628 Reply

    I bet these facts will not appear on the BBC or any other popular media !
    We urgently need a Government which is not swayed by popular opinion.
    I suggest that we remove those sitting in the House of Lords and replace them with people like Professor Herrington and representatives from the professional institutes, Mechanical Engineers, Electrical Engineers etc etc.

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