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Circular economy strategies for electric vehicle batteries reduce raw material reliance

Baars, J; Domenech Aparisi, T; Bleischwitz, R; Melin, HE; Heindrich, O; (2021) Circular economy strategies for electric vehicle batteries reduce raw material reliance. Nature Sustainability , 4 pp. 71-79. 10.1038/s41893-020-00607-0. Green open access

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Abstract

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. Here we 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. A reference scenario is presented and compared with four strategies: technology-driven substitution and technology-driven reduction of cobalt, new business models to stimulate battery reuse/recycling and policy-driven strategy to increase recycling. We find 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. We conclude that 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.

Type: Article
Title: Circular economy strategies for electric vehicle batteries reduce raw material reliance
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41893-020-00607-0
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-00607-0
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10107035
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