The EV Boom: No Longer the Distant Future

by Michael Sheen

What You Can Do: 

  • Vote for candidates that support the transition into clean energy 
  • Purchase and use devices that run on renewable energy
  • Support policies that invest in the lithium industry

Even amidst a global pandemic, the demand for electric vehicles has risen and is projected to increase in the incoming years. During the beginning of the lockdown, the electric car sales have decreased 15% compared to the first couple of months of 2019 [1]. However, due to a lowering in battery costs, policy support, and purchase incentives in countries around the world (most notably in Europe), there was an ongoing rise in electric vehicle sales. Despite the COVID-19 recession, electric car sales from 2020 relative to 2019 have increased by 46% in the world and 135% in Europe [1]. With steady growth over the last decade, the EV boom will continue to soar in 2021 and the following years to come. 

As part of Biden’s plan for a clean energy revolution and environmental justice, the President aims to invest in electric vehicles and completely eliminate and replace greenhouse gases [2]. By the year 2050, the plan expects that the U.S. will achieve a 100% clean energy economy and reach net-zero emissions. Biden promises to invest more time into clean energy research with one of his goals being that the U.S. develop 550,000 EV charging stations during his presidency [3]. While the country seems committed to this transition, there are several factors that may not keep up with this surge in electric vehicles. America’s ability to keep up with the EV boom in the next several years depends on the technological development of batteries and the lithium industry.

The supply of lithium, a metal essential for rechargeable batteries, is one of the most crucial factors in the progress of electric vehicles over the next several years. To produce the wave of electric vehicles projected by 2030, the amount of lithium-ion batteries would need to increase by more than 10-fold [4]. To reach that demand in the future, the Biden administration claims that they would support domestic production of EV metals in the States. But for now, the United States will depend largely on China as they currently lead the production of lithium batteries [5]. Additionally, since the lithium market is ahead of the anticipated EV boom, the mining industry has slowed down in production capacity and is hesitant to increase it in the meantime [6]. To successfully supply the metals for the EV boom, the mining industry needs more investment and preparation for the upcoming surge in demand. 

The EV boom would also rely on the technological development of batteries. A new battery technology that increases mileage between charges and extends battery life by years may require a greater amount of lithium than anticipated. Current models only require lithium in the cathode component but next-generation batteries such as pre-lithiation and solid-state need lithium in the anode component as well [6]. This change may essentially double the amount of lithium needed and can disrupt the projected supply and demand of the metal. Aside from using high-cost lithium, manufacturers look for alternative sources of batteries that may pose their own problems in the future. 

The Biden administration and countries across the world largely support the switch to an all-clean energy society. Eliminating greenhouse gas dependence would not only support the environment but also be economically beneficial to consumers. However, to prepare for the EV boom in the upcoming years, the mining industry needs massive preparation and support from the government. Access to a secure source of lithium in the future is key to the transition to all-electric vehicles.

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