The future of the electric car industry may be hampered by a global shortage of battery minerals.
Leading electric vehicle maker, Tesla has called on U.S government support to invest in the mining industry to ensure ongoing availability of key minerals such as nickel, copper required for the production of lithium-ion batteries.
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Reuters reported that Tesla’s supply chain manager, Sarah Maryssael, raised the concerns at an industry conference on Thursday. Tesla has rarely spoken publicly about its position on the broader resources sector. Electric cars use twice as much copper than internal combustion engines.
Copper industry fires up to meet demand
The copper industry has been in a lull in the last few decades and is reportedly suffering from underinvestment that is now rapidly changing.
New mines are being developed and older sites being rapidly refurbished to deliver on the increasing demand. It isn’t only electric cars that have sent the demand for copper skyrocketing, devices like Amazon Echo and other home assistants require large amounts of copper in their production.
According to data from consultancy BSRIA these devices will consume about 1.5 million tonnes of copper by 2030, up from 38,000 tonnes today. According to sources present at the presentation, Maryssael also said Tesla will focus on using Nickel rather than cobalt in battery cathodes.
The mining of cobalt is done primarily in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has an extremely poor reputation for using child labor.
Tesla will reportedly look to source cobalt and other minerals from mines in Australia and the United States to avoid supporting unethical work conditions.
Europe wants in on innovation
The closed-door conference was attended by more than 100 people, including representatives from the U.S. Department of State and Department of Energy, as well as Standard Lithium Ltd, pioneer Ltd and other companies working to develop U.S. lithium mines.
As the world moves to a fully electric future, nations across the world are pushing for battery innovation. This week Paris and Germany teamed up to announce a €5 to 6 billion initiative to fund advanced battery research and create battery factories in Europe.
At the press conference of the announcement, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said the investment “shows Europe is not fated to depend on technological imports from the two powers that are the United States and China.”
One of the first projects under the new agreement will be a pilot factory in France that is reportedly set to employ more than 200 people.
Europe is determined to become a player in the battery field. Maros Sefcovic, the EU vice president for energy told the European Battery Conference in Brussels on Thursday:
“I can tell you that our non-European competitors are getting worried. But at the same time, we cannot be naïve, as we are catching up slowly.”