17 June 2019
With the possibility that China may limit exports of rare earth materials to American companies as the trade war with the US continues, the supply of these and other materials integral to the production of electric vehicles and renewables such as solar and wind power is coming into sharp focus.
For example, electric vehicles typically contain 10 times more copper than conventional fossil fuel vehicles, and growth projections for the sector mean that its demand for copper will increase by an estimated 9 times by 2027 (compared with 2017), according to a report commissioned by the International Copper Association. This will undoubtedly have a significant impact on other major copper consuming sectors particularly given that copper’s recycling rate has been decreasing since 2011. (www.energypost.eu February 2019)
Cobalt is another important scarce metal that is used in renewable energy systems and the production of electric vehicles. Sustained pressure not to take supply from one of the major sources, the Democratic Republic of Congo, following reports of its continued use of child labour, has resulted in a shortage of supply and driven prices considerably higher.
“Investment in new technologies to overcome these material shortages will clearly be needed for continued growth in electric vehicles, but growth in alternatives such as biofuels for the aviation and heavy goods vehicles sectors will also be critical in meeting the urgent need for climate change mitigation.” Richard Lilleystone, GazAsia CEO