As the market for electric cars grows the need for the materials needed to make them increases as well. Because we are only at the beginning of electric vehicles becoming common, not a lot of them have become old enough to need new batteries or break down. Now, this is not saying that it has not happened, just that it hasn’t become a big business yet. Creating and manufacturing these batteries, on the other hand, has boomed and the resources used to make them are in high demand. These types of batteries are used in phones, laptops, and other types of electronics as well as electric vehicles.
Electric cars use lithium-ion batteries, the same kind that are in almost all smartphones. So what materials are in electric car batteries? The materials in electric car batteries include elements such as lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, graphite, and other metals and materials. These raw materials are processed and individual battery cells are made. There is a cooling system and electrical power management system added to regulate the battery.
Many people wonder about how these batteries are made, and where these materials come from. It is also wondered if these resources are sustainable for the huge industry of electric cars. But wonder no more, because in this article, we will be discussing how electric car batteries are made, and if they will last for a long time.
What Materials Are In Electric Car Batteries?
As stated before, almost all electric cars use lithium-ion batteries. Lead-based batteries were used in some very early electric cars but have been phased out almost completely. Other types of batteries are also currently in the works, but none have been officially released or commercially used as of now but in the future, this may change.
Lithium-ion batteries are currently one of the most popular batteries used for more complicated electronics like computers, smartphones, tablets, and other rechargeable electronics. As the battery market continues to increase, so does the need for the materials that make up these batteries as well as materials that are used in the production of these batteries.
Lots of different materials are used in the production and end result of electric car batteries, most notably lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite. Copper, steel, and plastic can also be found in some batteries for electrical or structural purposes. Some of these materials can be considered to be less common when compared to others but none of them are extremely rare. These materials are processed and put together to make the large battery which generally includes a cooling system and electrical power management system. They are shaped and built specifically to fit whatever car, phone, or laptop they are needed to power.
Where Are Those Materials Sourced From?
The materials used in electric car batteries come from all over the world. Where the materials are mined and processed are generally different countries or places but by following the supply chain, we can find where most of the materials used in these batteries come from.
There are high concentrations of these metals in specific places in the world and a large percentage of these metals are mined in similar places. This does not mean that all of that kind of metal comes from a single place or country as mining does occur all over the world, it just means that a large percentage or over half may come from this country as some of these metals generally appear in high geographical concentration.
Cobalt and lithium (two of the main resources used in battery production) are sourced in high percentages from a few countries. One of the biggest suppliers of raw cobalt is the Democratic Republic of Congo with around 60% of the world’s cobalt coming from here. Russia and Australia also mine raw cobalt but at a much lower rate than the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Together their mines produce 12,000 MT (metric tons) while the Democratic Republic of Congo’s mines produces 95,000 MT. Lithium mines can be found in Australia, Chile, and China as well as a few other countries that produce small amounts. Australia and Chile produce around the same amount of Lithium and account for around 81% (15,900 MT) of the world’s Lithium production while China only produces around 5,000 MT.
Currently, China dominates the Lithium-ion battery production as they produce about 65% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries as of February 2021. They have huge control over the raw resources from both foreign and domestic entities, as well as having all the manufacturing that is required to make lithium-ion batteries.
The USA comes in second as it produces 6% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries, which when compared to China is minuscule. Europe does have a plan to greatly increase their battery production in the upcoming years as they plan to transition from gas and diesel to electric cars.
How Long Until Those Battery Resources Run Out?
As we all know, resources on earth are limited, especially resources like metals and plastics. We know that one day there just won’t be enough resources to be mined anymore. Hopefully, this time will not be soon. Estimations on when we will run out vary greatly, as it depends on what we do with those resources and whether or not we can reuse them. There are enough of the metals needed to currently make a large number of batteries and production of these metals more or less have been able to keep up with the demand.
Another way this future could work out is the switching of what type of battery will power electric cars. Currently, a sodium-ion battery is being produced and many are very hopeful that it could replace the lithium-ion battery in electric cars.
Sodium-ion batteries are not the only new type of batteries that are currently being researched, but if a few different types of batteries can be produced that have similar results, powered in a similar way, and even recycled, then we may have a chance to never run out. If this is the case and we can properly spread out the use of these materials, we could have plenty of materials for years to come and in a perfect world maybe even never run out.
Can Electric Car Batteries Be Recycled?
One of the most important questions about batteries in electric cars is if they can or cannot be recycled. Recycling and reusing any material has become very important in our world, and electric car batteries are no exception to this as the world tries to shift to a sustainable one. To really make a sustainable car and make it so we can rely on electric cars for a long time, their battery component and everything that makes them up would have to be able to be reused or recycled. If not then it simply wouldn’t make sense to continue using these cars as we would run out of the resources required to make them.
Thankfully, electric car batteries can be recycled and reused, but there is currently a huge problem with the industry. Although companies say that these batteries can be recycled, currently less than 5% are. This is because these batteries can’t be recycled in the same way that we recycle things like paper, glass, and plastic.
Because of a huge boom in this industry and not a lot of attention being focused on this growing problem because of reasons like, it doesn’t make enough money, it is dangerous, and not all of the parts of the batteries are currently being recycled, we are not seeing a huge focus on it. If this trend continues, this could mean big problems in the future as some of the materials can be toxic to the environment if not disposed of or recycled correctly.
On that note, somehow a rumor started online that it’s okay to throw electric car batteries in the ocean. It’s not okay, and if you need help understanding why then please read our full article by clicking this link.
It does take more effort to recycle and reuse these batteries, but for sustainability, it is something that needs to happen. The fuel cells are prone to exploding if dismantled incorrectly and in the west, the protections that need to be put into place in order to process old batteries are currently more costly than what you get out of the batteries.
Other problems like recovering the metals used in the batteries also play a role in the lack of recycling as it requires a very energy-extensive process to put the metals back into a usable form. Right now, these batteries are not being recycled to their full potential and more research is being done to make the recycling of these batteries more viable but as of now this process is not refined and could cause some alarm if not handled correctly in the near future.
Since they are the most popular, where are Tesla batteries made? Tesla batteries are made inside a Gigafactory just outside of Sparks, Nevada. There is also one located in California, New York, and another to be built in Texas. There are two international locations in Shanghai and Berlin. For more info on this topic please see our full article by clicking on this link.