Baars, J., Domenech, T., Bleischwitz, R. et al. Circular economy strategies for electric vehicle batteries reduce reliance on raw materials. Nat Sustain (2020)
The wide adoption of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles will require increased natural resources for the automotive industry. The expected rapid increase in batteries could result in new resource challenges and supply-chain risks. To strengthen the resilience and sustainability of automotive supply chains and reduce primary resource requirements, circular economy strategies are needed.
The authors of this paper illustrate how these strategies can reduce the extraction of primary raw materials, that is, cobalt supplies. Material flow analysis is applied to understand current and future flows of cobalt embedded in electric vehicle batteries across the European Union.
The paper concludes that new technologies provide the most promising strategies to reduce the reliance on cobalt substantially but could result in burden shifting such as an increase in nickel demand. To avoid the latter, technological developments should be combined with an efficient recycling system. More-ambitious circular economy strategies, at both government and business levels, are urgently needed to address current and future resource challenges across the supply chain successfully.