European Electric Vehicles Need More Aluminium – CleanTechnica
By Massimiliano Saltori, European Science Communication Institute
There are ambitious plans for the future of sustainable mobility in the European Union. On June 8th, the European Parliament voted to stop producing CO2-emitting vehicles by 2035. The 27 member states will now vote on the agreement — in true European fashion. Once implemented, the ban will effectively force the European automobile industry to stop manufacturing internal combustion engine vehicles within the next 13 years.
In addition to this radical agreement, EU lawmakers approved a further 55% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. Before this, the car industry had been required to lower carbon emissions by 37.5% by the decade’s end.
The ban has faced criticisms, mainly from automotive lobbyists and conservative legislators — in many cases with practical concerns. Despite this, given Europe’s recent rise in temperatures, it is easy to understand why such drastic changes were deemed necessary.
Road transport alone generates 22% of EU total greenhouse gas emissions, with cars accounting for as much as 12%. These figures may seem modest when compared with the US, where emissions from cars reach a staggering 38%. Yet they are still significant in our ongoing fight against global warming.
In a bid to achieve rapid carbon neutrality by 2050, the EU is now looking to electric vehicles (EVs) for help – and it seems that automobile manufacturers and consumers are betting on them as well.
The EV market has grown impressively over the past year, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In the first quarter of 2022, two million EVs were sold worldwide, up 35% from the prior year despite supply chain strains. Of all the passenger cars sold in the EU last year, 18% were electric or plug-in hybrids.
Although it’s enjoying a favourable moment, the European EV industry still faces high manufacturing costs and critical resource bottlenecks. For example modern EV manufacturing relies heavily on components such as aluminium.
This metal already makes up about 15% of the bodywork of today’s mass-produced cars. Yet, the number exceeds 50% in EVs, making this industry highly vulnerable to shortages of so-called critical raw materials (CRMs) essential to aluminium production.
Currently 84% of the bauxite ore imported into the EU arrives from Africa, while magnesium and silicon overwhelmingly come from China. As a result, due to the current geopolitical climate, it is not surprising that European policymakers are considering resuming CRM extraction locally within the next few years. However, restarting mass primary production and mining may dramatically raise the EU’s CO2 emissions, undermining future carbon neutrality plans.
Nevertheless, aluminium is also recognized as one of the most versatile metals on the market. As a matter of fact, 75% of all the aluminium ever produced is still around today in one form or another, as it can be recycled virtually forever. This well-known fact is also at the core of a recently launched industrial plan promoted by a transnational research consortium that may benefit European EV manufacturers soon.</…….