Transition to electric vehicles puts heavy pressure on production of critical metals

Posted: November 12, 2019 by oldbrew in Critique, Travel
Tags:

Typical electric car set-up


Critics of fuel power speak of the finite nature of oil and natural gas discoveries. A reminder here that resources are far from unlimited for EVs, in the short term at least. No sign of much appetite for switching to smaller cars either, with SUV demand rising fast.

The current production of a number of critical metals is insufficient for the large-scale transition to electric vehicles.

This is the conclusion of a report by environmental scientists Benjamin Sprecher and organisations Copper8 and Metabolic, reports TechXplore.

As a solution, they advocate more electric car-sharing, cars with a smaller battery and improved recycling.

Small country, big impact

The Dutch Climate Policy aims for 1.9 million electric cars in the Netherlands by 2030, compared to 171,000 at this moment—a growth of more than 1000 percent in less than 11 years.

But according to the report “Critical Metals Demand for Electric Vehicles’ – which looks at critical metals needed for this growth—it would be better to limit this growth, so that there will be a maximum of 1 million electric cars in 2030.

The authors assume a fair distribution: each country is entitled to a certain share of the global production of important critical metals, such as lithium and cobalt, in proportion to its population.

With the current plans for electric cars, the Netherlands would need up to 4 percent of the global annual production, while the Netherlands only has 0.2 percent of the world’s population—an ‘unfair distribution,” according to the report.

Less is more

“Let me start by saying that we are definitely not against the introduction of electric cars,” says Benjamin Sprecher, researcher at the Centre for Environmental Sciences Leiden.

The transition to electric transport is important,” says Benjamin Sprecher, a researcher at the Institute of Environmental Sciences. “However, we must be aware that this policy is not without consequences.”

He explains, for example, that a greater demand for critical metals—which are also needed for solar panels and wind turbines—can be disastrous to nature. “Increased demand inevitably leads to the construction of new mines. In order to prevent inconvenience to humans, these will be located in remote areas, at the expense of already scarce nature reserves. We must be aware of this and ensure more sustainable mining.”

But that’s not enough, says Sprecher. “We consume an awful lot, so much so that it is no longer enough for us to have just one Earth. In the case of electric cars too, it is important that we look at ways to reduce the number of cars. For example, shared cars and improved public transport.”

Other solutions, such as new technologies that are less dependent on critical metals or the use of smaller batteries, are less effective (see figure 2) but also easier to implement.

Finally, the report recommends the development of a stronger European critical metals recycling industry.

Full article here.

Comments
  1. Phoenix44 says:

    I do wish scientists would not stray into areas way beyond their knowledge – as these ones do with economics. If you don’t understand pricing, then don’t comment on things that involve pricing.

  2. hunterson7 says:

    In California during the recent blackouts electric cars were quickly rendered useless.
    And don’t forget that the grid in California is vulnerable to huge blackouts as a direct result of green and climate policies.
    Big climate is implicitly imperialistic, demanding African children work to mine the rare earth metals needed for high tech Western goods. And as adults the Africans get to live in energy poverty so their resources are available to wealthy elites.

  3. Gamecock says:

    Peak lithium.

    Peak cobalt.

    Jeeeze. Here we go again.

    ‘As a solution, they advocate more electric car-sharing, cars with a smaller battery and improved recycling.’

    That’ll get people to switch.

    “We are designing your future, and you get no say in it. Because we are environmental scientists.”

    Not just scientists.

  4. pochas94 says:

    “it would be better to limit this growth, so that there will be a maximum of 1 million electric cars in 2030.”

    We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.

  5. oldbrew says:

    But…’The Dutch government confirms plan to ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2030′

    https://electrek.co/2017/10/10/netherlands-dutch-ban-petrol-diesel-cars-2030-electric-cars/

  6. Jim says:

    Government? Those are private groups spreading ideas, not governmental bodies. The government asks a question, that needs a awnser, they then hire a researcher to to propose an result, after that, it’s anyone’s quess, but the results of this study, look rather limited, by a bad question.

  7. oldbrew says:

    Latest news…

    NETHERLANDS TO SLASH SPEED LIMIT TO DRASTICALLY REDUCE AIR POLLUTANTS: REPORT
    November 12, 2019

    Drivers in the Netherlands will soon be limited to just 100 kilometers per hour on Dutch roadways, in an effort to make an immediate and dramatic reduction in air pollution, sources told broadcaster NOS. The new speed limit should mean that the government can press forward with plans to build nearly 75 thousand new homes next year without running afoul of a recent ruling forcing the country to cap emissions, NOS said.

    In some places the speed limit will continue to be as high as 130 kilometers per hour from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day, according to the broadcaster’s source. It was not immediately clear when the new driving rules would take effect.

    https://nltimes.nl/2019/11/12/netherlands-slash-speed-limit-drastically-reduce-air-pollutants-report
    – – –
    Smaller battery should do then 😑

  8. Gamecock says:

    ‘each country is entitled to a certain share of the global production of important critical metals, such as lithium and cobalt, in proportion to its population.’

    Entitled ?!?! Wut? You will get what you can get in the marketplace; the producers will decide who they want to sell it to.

    ’The Dutch government confirms plan to ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2030′

    They can confirm nothing of the sort.

    The Dutch government can ban new petrol and diesel cars NOW (But they don’t!). Today’s government has no authority over 2030’s government. How bold to declare what the government 11 years from now will do. It’s juvenile. Wanna ban cars? Do it now, while you still can.

    The press just watches these appeals to ignorance sail by, and says nothing.

  9. stpaulchuck says:

    these eco-loons keep running face first into the Law of Unintended Consequences. They never think out their ‘beautiful vision’. It’s all down to the demonstrated fact that these types are actuated by feelings and not logic, history, or facts.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    What Phoenix44 said…

    More details here:
    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/lithium-cobalt-and-why-they-are-no-problem/

    Basically it comes down to “price rise increases supply” and demand rise increases price, plus “resource substitution”.

    There’s a half dozen Li battery chemistrys that do not need Cobalt and a few dozen other battery types, including K-ion and Na-ion where you just swap a sodium or potassium for the lithium (and diddle the electrodes a little).

    Will it change things like the bulk or weight of battery? Take more R&D time? Yes. And, just as soon as a LiCo cell is expensive enough to care about it, folks will deal with it.

    Then the majority of the other metals are “Rare Earth Metals” that are NOT rare at all.
    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/are-rare-earths-rare/
    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/two-rare-earth-stories/

    We have huge tonnages of them that we don’t mine. Why? Because a bit of Thorium is in the mix and that means we must treat it as “radioactive waste”. The far better thing to do is put the Thorium in a MSR and make electricity with it, but we don’t. That’s a choice subject to change and not a resource shortage. Similarly, a rare earths mine in California has periodically been driven under by excessive environmental zeal (despite not having the Thorium “issue”).

    Essentially, if we just choose to stop being stupid we can have essentially unlimited energy at a decent price (Thorium works fine in existing reactors like the CANDU already, so no R&D needed, really) AND more “rare” earths than we can use.

    But that would not fit the narrative of “Ban gas / diesel cars and ride share the eBus”.

  11. oldbrew says:

    cars with a smaller battery

    AKA hybrids 😉

  12. Gamecock says:

    “Essentially, if we just choose to stop being stupid we can have essentially unlimited energy at a decent price (Thorium works fine in existing reactors like the CANDU already, so no R&D needed, really)”

    Thorium doesn’t work for fuel in hard core reactors, such as CANDU. As proved at Savannah River and Shippingport.

    Cirrusly, let the thorium farce go. It’s not relevant today.

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    @Gamecock:

    I’m not a thorium zealot, but I’m also not going to talk down what works.

    You are wrong, thorium DOES work in CANDU:

    https://cna.ca/technology/energy/candu-technology/

    CANDU reactors are unique in that they use natural, unenriched uranium as a fuel; with some modification, they can also use enriched uranium, mixed fuels, and even thorium. Thus, CANDU reactors are ideally suited for using material from decommissioned nuclear weapons as fuel, helping to reduce global arsenals.

    https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2012/08/canada-and-china-work-on-thorium-candu.html

    The agreement marks the third phase of cooperation between Canada and China. Beginning in 2008, it demonstrates not only the use of recovered uranium but also thorium in CANDU reactors and serves as evidence of Candu’s commitment to customer driven partnerships and the CANDU reactor’s inherent capability to use alternative fuels. This CANDU flexibility offers a unique opportunity to realize closed fuels cycles in countries that have both CANDU and LWR reactors.

    “CANDU technology can make a major contribution to reducing China’s dependence on imported nuclear fuel resources,” said Frank Yee, Candu’s Chief Nuclear Engineer. “China has abundant thorium resources, and can use recycled uranium in the most efficient and cost effective manner in our commercially proven reactor designs with minimal changes.”

    The better neutron efficiency of the heavy water reactor lets it work.

    BTW, both the USA ( mixed fuel) and India made nuke booms using U233 from Thorium. In the case of India, from their CANDU knockoff.

    A great deal of nonsence about it not working is deliberate disinformation to channel folks down hard and expensive paths to Special Nuke Material and away from heavy water reactors. They don’t want another India.

    So take a moment to dig into the history of CANDU, India, thorium, and U233 before claiming it doesn’t work. It already has.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nuclear-reactor-at-kalpakkam-worlds-envy-indias-pride/articleshow/59407602.cms

    India’s fast breeder reactor is even more unique as within it the country also deploys special rods of thorium which whhen they get exposed to or irradiated by fast neutrons they generate U-233 and a normally benign thorium turns into a valuable nuclear material.

    Looks like in 2018 they started their transitional phase where the breeder is MOX fueled but breeding with thorium. Their plan is that over time, the Th U233 fuels replace the MOX (mixed Pu U oxide) starter bundles as they transition to native Th for the whole cycle.

    So not only running in CANDU heavy water, but now as breeded blanket fuel bundles.

  15. oldbrew says:

    In the case of electric cars too, it is important that we look at ways to reduce the number of cars.

    Try telling that to the billions round the world who’ve never had a car, but would like one.

  16. ivan says:

    Re the lowering of speed limits.

    Don’t the idiots that think up such things realise that by doing that the cars take longer to get anywhere and thus have more time to throw out pollution. A typical EU stupidity like the rediction of the power of electric appliances – it doesn’t reduce anything because it takes longer to do something.

  17. oldbrew says:

    Electric car future may depend on deep sea mining
    By David Shukman
    BBC Science editor, Malaga, Spain
    41 minutes ago

    Why would anyone bother?
    The short answer: demand. The rocks of the seabed are far richer in valuable metals than those on land and there’s a growing clamour to get at them.

    Billions of potato-sized rocks known as “nodules” litter the abyssal plains of the Pacific and other oceans and many are brimming with cobalt, suddenly highly sought after as the boom in the production of batteries gathers pace.

    At the moment, most of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo where for years there’ve been allegations of child labour, environmental damage and widespread corruption.
    . . .
    Laurens de Jonge, who’s in charge of the EU project, known as Blue Nodules, said: “It’s not difficult to access – you don’t have to go deep into tropical forests or deep into mines.

    “It’s readily available on the seafloor, it’s almost like potato harvesting only 5km deep in the ocean.”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49759626
    – – –
    Fair bet that ‘allegations of’ is just an add-on from the BBC’s legal advisers.
    = = =
    DeepGreen Derives Metal from Seafloor Polymetallic Nodules
    OCT 17, 2019

    Vancouver, Canada — DeepGreen Metals, Inc., a company pioneering a new source of critical base metals which are needed for scaling up electric vehicles and energy storage globally, today announced that they have successfully derived an alloy of base metals from polymetallic nodules found on the deep ocean floor.

    A vast resource of essential metals — nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese — are contained in polymetallic nodules that sit four to five miles deep on the ocean floor in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) of the Pacific Ocean. Global demand for these metals, which are essential components of the batteries that power electric cars and other technologies, is predicted to skyrocket.

    https://www.valuewalk.com/2019/10/nickel-copper-cobalt/

  18. tom0mason says:

    “The authors assume a fair distribution: each country is entitled to a certain share of the global production of important critical metals, such as lithium and cobalt, in proportion to its population.”

    The authors are by this evidence socialist knob heads.
    The countries that have people with the will, want, and money for this technology shall get it. NOBODY IS ENTITLED TO A SHARE! All others either beg, borrow, or steal the cash to join in. That idea of ‘fair distribution’ of resources is complete BS from the lefty playbook.
    Sheesh, next you’ll have the UN doing the entitlement share out!

  19. oldbrew says:

    you’ll have the UN doing the entitlement share out!

    Don’t give them ideas. OTOH maybe they planned it already: ‘we see your emissions record is good/bad/ugly so that means ‘x’ amount/no amount of rare earths for you this year, buster’ 😫

    ‘x’ = UN approved

  20. oldbrew says:

    Just came across this…

    What is the Green New Deal for Europe?

    The Green New Deal for Europe is an ambitious and pragmatic plan to transition to zero greenhouse gas emissions and transform Europe in the process.

    It involves an annual investment of 5% of GDP in infrastructure, agriculture, and industry, creating millions of new jobs and ending the era of austerity — all without raising your taxes.

    https://www.gndforeurope.com/
    – – –
    ‘all without raising your taxes’ – really? 🤩

    10 PILLARS OF THE GREEN NEW DEAL FOR EUROPE
    https://www.gndforeurope.com/10-pillars-of-the-green-new-deal-for-europe

    Example:
    PILLAR 8 ENDING THE DOGMA OF ENDLESS GROWTH

    We must abandon GDP growth as the primary measure of progress. Instead, we need to focus on what matters: health, happiness and the environment.
    – – –
    ‘We must’. Isn’t that what dictators say? :/

  21. Gamecock says:

    ‘India’s fast breeder reactor is even more unique as within it the country also deploys special rods of thorium which whhen they get exposed to or irradiated by fast neutrons they generate U-233 and a normally benign thorium turns into a valuable nuclear material.’

    As demonstrated at Savannah River 50 YEARS AGO and Shippingport 30 YEARS AGO. You get a thorium rod with some U-233 atoms in it. A thorium rod with U-233 atoms in it is NOT FUEL. The U-233 atoms embedded in the thorium rods DO NOT PARTICIPATE in the nuclear reaction. In situ, they are useless.

    Extensive, external processing to separate the U-233 atoms from the thorium is required, IF it is to become fuel.

  22. tom0mason says:

    oldbrew,

    “The Green New Deal for Europe is an ambitious and pragmatic plan to transition to zero greenhouse gas emissions and transform Europe in the process.”
    … It involves an annual investment of 5% of GDP in infrastructure, agriculture, and industry, creating millions of new jobs and ending the era of austerity — all without raising your taxes.

    Sounds to me more like recycling Marxist economic ideas of a fantastic perpetual motion economic engine. A strange and horrifying place where unrealistically, all factors (economic, physical, and social) will conform to ‘sciency’ sounding bureaucratic rules that are enforced by an elitist central power and their lower minions.
    So lets get rid of the natural rise and fall of industries (aka in socialist speak ‘boom and bust’) and those who become rich through such an ‘unfair’ system. Instead have a bureaucratically planned economy of stasis in economic and social order. Rich, powerful but ignorant and useless elites at the top, all others working hard to support the bureaucratic mirage of ‘progress’ below. What could possibly go wrong?

  23. p.g.sharrow says:

    It always seems that the Ecoloon solution to providing for their future needs is poverty and slavery for everyone else. Liberal Progressives, Communists, “Know” the solution for everything, the Rule of the Educated Elite. Every time this solution is followed it always results in disaster for everyone, ALWAYS! but they insist that it will work this time, All that is needed is to FORCE everyone to follow their generous wisdom. …pg

  24. It doesn't add up... says:

    I thought the Dutch government had a far more effective way to reduce speeds on the roads: encourage protests by farmers. Doubtless it produces a rash of 40kph speed limit signs (which really mean the road is at a standstill), with advertised “Files:20km” and more.

  25. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, I gave it a day, but my original reply is still missing, so I’ll try an edited version:

    @Gamecock:

    The CANDU’s Chief Nuclear Engineer about their product, and does not agree with you. Why you are so fixated on Shippingport is unclear, but some information:

    First Shippingport DID run on U233. Not could, or failed. Did.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shippingport_Atomic_Power_Station

    The third and final core used at Shippingport was an experimental, light water moderated, thermal breeder reactor. It kept the same seed-and-blanket design, but the seed was now uranium-233 and the blanket was made of thorium. Being a breeder reactor, it had the ability to transmute relatively inexpensive thorium to uranium-233 as part of its fuel cycle. The breeding ratio attained by Shippingport’s third core was 1.01. Over its 25-year life, the Shippingport power plant operated for about 80,324 hours, producing about 7.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.
    […]
    The third and final core was a light water breeder, which began operating in August 1977 and after testing was brought to full power by the end of that year. It used pellets made of thorium dioxide and uranium-233 oxide; initially the U233 content of the pellets was 5-6% in the seed region, 1.5-3% in the blanket region and none in the reflector region. It operated at 236 MWt, generating 60 MWe and ultimately produced over 2.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. After five years (29,000 effective full power hours) the core was removed and found to contain nearly 1.4% more fissile material than when it was installed, demonstrating that breeding had occurred.

    Note the successful positive breeding ratio.

    I would surmise that running for 5 years on a U233 core constitutes an existance proof of U233 burnup and “participation”…

    https://energyfromthorium.com/2006/07/11/nuclear-cross-sections-and-what-you-can-learn-from-them/

            TOTAL   ELASTIC  FISSION  CAPTURE  half-life
    Li-7    1.015   0.97     -        0.045    stable
    Be-9    6.1586  6.1510   -        0.0076   stable
    F-19    3.643   3.652    -        0.0096   stable
    Th-230  32.32   9.774    0.0      22.55    75,400 yr
    Th-232  21.11   13.70    0.0      7.40     14e9 yr
    Th-233  1478.   13.0     15.0     1450.0   22.3 min
    Pa-231  210.69   9.954   0.02     200.72   32,700 yr
    Pa-232  1176.2  12.23    700.0    464.0    1.31 day
    Pa-233  53.051  13.021   0.0      40.031   27.1 day
    U-232   162.3   10.79    76.66    74.88    69.8 yr
    U-233   588.38  11.97    531.16   45.25    159,000 yr
    U-234   119.2   19.41    0.0062   99.75    245,000 yr
    U-235   698.2   15.03    584.4    98.81    704e6 yr
    

    With a fission cross section of 531.x (compare U235 at 584.x) it will fission about as often as U235 aka Special Nuclear Material. Th-233 at 1450.x capture will clearly breed.

    Thorium has its problems (gamma ray flux from U-232, Pa-232 cross section of 700, expense) and I am NOT a cheerleader for it. With Uranium as cheap as it is there is little point in exploring new options NOW. But in some future time when Rare Earths are needed enough to deal with the thorium containing ores (the actual topic of the article) your choice is a mildly radioactive waste pile, or run it through a CANDU or MSR and get some power out of it.

    To say what has been done, can’t be done, is rather silly. It can be done. Whether that’s a good idea or not will depend on the economics of that future time.

    [mod] rescued from spam bin

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    Tallbloke:

    Is there some reason my comment is being BlackHoled?

  27. It doesn't add up... says:

    It is interesting to observe the way in which China is latching on to resources around the world that it views as potentially strategic. Evidently they plan to control who gets access and at what price.

  28. E.M.Smith says:

    Thanks for the despamming. As I run a blog, I know these things happen. Some word, name, or whatever tickles WordPress. It happens. For my blog too. So thanks again.

    [mod] you’re welcome – longer comments often seem to run into trouble in WordPress

  29. dscott says:

    I find the focus on limiting electric car production to perceived resource scarcity an insight into the liberal/socialist mentality. You notice that there is no call for the innovation to find alternatives? We find this mentality throughout most of the issues they champion. Liberal/socialists are all about dividing the pie and not making more pies as the capitalist does. Scarcity versus opportunity.

    But I find it more interesting that liberal/socialist narratives seem to advocate hemming or restricting the population into limited options and areas. Making the preferred transportation alternative (electric car) scarce, thus more expensive is an economic ploy to deprive the average person of the opportunity to travel. The Communists in the Soviet Union, China and other countries that practice this subjugation of people limit the movement of populations in order to control them.

    However, let’s get to the core issue, the inverter used convert the AC electricity to DC for battery storage. As I have pointed out in my posts throughout this blog, the massive inefficiency due to conversion is worse than the use of conventional fuels. The nonsense of using battery banks in Australia is an example of gross system inefficiency that does the opposite of what politicians claim they want to accomplish. IF you really wanted to reduce energy waste and therefore pollution, you would choose the most efficient system efficiency making electric cars the worst transportation choice when a hybrid at point of use would achieve that goal. Yes, hybrids use batteries, but the battery overall use is of a smaller percentage of process than the 100% necessity in an electric car.

  30. E.M.Smith says:

    @dscott:

    Check out the history of The Club Of Rome sponsoring the “running out scare” since at least the early ’70s. They were behind “The Limits To Growth” by Meadows at.al. I was when the present lying with computer models started. They used a fixed quantity of resource the “projected” an exponential growth of population / demand and no new tech, no new supply, no resource substitution. Concluded we’re all gonna die and panic now…

    One example: did you know we completely ran out of natural gas in 1980? That was their predicion… oh, sorry, “projection”.

    They have been running this same scam ever since. It makes a lot of money…

    On battery systems:

    There is about a 5% loss in the charger / rectifier system, then some loss in the battery itself taling the charge (chemistry type dependent). Once charged, there is a “self discharge rate” that can be a few % per day (so Tesla cars don’t sit in long term parking well…). One discharge, there is again battery loss of a percent or two, then it goes to the inverter that turns DC to AC for the Tesla motor (that, IIRC, is DC Brushless but uses an inverter https://www.tesla.com/blog/induction-versus-dc-brushless-motors ).

    That all ignores line losses from generator to your house and losses at the generator… overall losses are mever reported by ecar advocates.

  31. oldbrew says:

    [moved to another thread]

  32. Gamecock says:

    “the core was removed and found to contain nearly 1.4% more fissile material”

    Don’t be dense, Smith. Read my post again. Fissile material is U-233 atoms in thorium targets. IT DID NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THE REACTION.

    As happened at Savannah River, the alchemy worked. Producing U-233 atoms in thorium rods/pellets.

    To get FUEL requires separations and additional processing.

  33. Gamecock says:

    Also note that the U-233 produced at Savannah River and Shippingport was never used for anything.

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