Hundreds of battery Gigafactories are needed for electric vehicles

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By Nick Flaherty

On the basis of the latest mobility scenarios and current developments in battery types and capacities, scientists at the Öko-Institut, a renowned non-profit research institute in Freiburg (Germany), have calculated the raw material requirements for key materials for lithium-ion cells up to 2050. Demand will continue to grow until 2050 if lithium-ion cells remain the energy storage technology of choice for electric vehicles in the long term, predicts Dr. Matthias Buchert, an expert on sustainable raw materials at the Öko-Institut.

The good news is that global reserves for lithium of 16 million tonnes, cobalt (7.1 million tonnes) and nickel (74 million tonnes) are sufficient so a shortage of these raw materials is not to be expected, says Buchert. Nevertheless, caution is advisable: “Electric mobility is developing so dynamically that there may be temporary shortages of individual raw materials,” Buchert says.

Which shares of the added value of electric mobility will be realized in Europe and in the individual countries in the future is a political question that both the EU Commission and the governments of the member states must quickly answer.

While today the battery industry is mostly located in Asia, such systems are also produced in Europe in several countries. The battery cells required for this must be purchased primarily from Asian manufacturers. European companies are therefore dependent on external suppliers and their supply of raw materials. At the same time, the battery cell plays a decisive role in determining the performance of the battery system and is the differentiating factor number one for battery-operated vehicles.

In order to establish Germany – the Öko-Institut is based in Germany – as planned as the lead market for electromobility, most of the value added must also be generated here. However, cell production is linked to a secure supply of raw materials. The recycling aspect must not be neglected. “In the ambitious expansion of the recycling infrastructure for lithium-ion batteries, around 10 % of the global demand for these raw materials for electromobility can be met by battery recycling in 2030 and as much as 40 percent in 2050,” Buchert calculated.

This study was carried out by the Öko-Institut as part of the research project “Fab4LiB. Under the project management of TerraE Holding GmbH, 17 research institutes and industrial companies are developing innovative solutions along the lithium-ion technology value chain, which are to flow directly into the mass production of battery cells. In the medium term, TerraE is aiming for cell production in Germany with an annual volume of 8 gigawatt hours.

The study “Gigafactories for lithium-ion cells – raw material requirements for global electromobility by 2050” by Öko-Institutn is only available in German at ( )

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