Electric vehicles: the battle is on between manufacturers to secure the supply of precious metals

One of the essential challenges for the automotive industry today is the development of the electric car and the supply of rare metals: lithium, copper, nickel and even cobalt.

A concern so essential that giants like Tesla, Renault or BMW compete mercilessly to make agreements with mining groups to guarantee their supply.

And there is indeed cause for concern in the face of the instability of certain political regimes. This is particularly the case in Africa where a large part of the coveted rare metals are found. And the continent also faces accusations of violation of human rights or serious damage to the environment.

Tesla, future mining group?

Tesla, for example, has already concluded agreements with the Chinese group Ganfeng Lithium or companies like manono in the DRC, the Brazilian group Value and other companies to buy the raw materials needed to manufacture its vehicles.

And Elon Musk, who never does things by halves, now plans to invest in large mining groups.

With this in mind, it has entered into negotiations with glencorethe Anglo-Swiss commodity giant and one of the world’s leading battery recyclers.

Discussions seem to be stalling on environmental issues. This is because Tesla takes particular care of its image as a producer of “green” vehicles.

Exponentially growing needs

However, these considerations should not weigh very heavily in the face of the explosion in the need for rare metals.

For the manufacture of batteries, by 2035, six times more lithium, twice as much nickel and seven times more graphite will be needed than today!

However, Tesla, like all car manufacturers, is 85% dependent on the Chinese, who have invested heavily in mines, as well as in refining and battery manufacturing plants.

How to reduce this dependency?

Tesla’s strategy is a short-term response. Taking stakes in mining groups or buying them out is good! But we then remain dependent on external suppliers and at the mercy of unpredictable geopolitical situations or environmental problems.

Europe relies more on clean sources of supply. There are already 4 lithium extraction projects, in Finland, Austria and Germany, which could cover 80% of European needs for batteries.

France has around forty potential lithium extraction sites capable of equipping 700,000 electric cars.

But these projects come up against numerous resistance from opponents who denounce the very negative environmental impact of a possible exploitation of these deposits.

For its part, the European Commission wants to impose a battery recycling rate of 10% by 2035.

A very insufficient scenario for ecologists for whom the battle around rare metals is only one of the challenges of a larger fight: the automotive transition. According to them, the world relies too much on electric vehicles alone, which we now know are far from being completely “green”!

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