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EVs use far less raw materials than fossil-fuelled cars

Green credentials of electric vehicles revealed by new study.

Electric vehicle charging plug

Electric vehicles (EVs) are often cited as being more environmentally friendly than fossil-fuelled cars. Now a new study shows just how much greener they really are.

When you take into account recycling, just 30kg of raw materials will be lost over the lifecycle of an EV battery. By contrast, 17,000 litres of petrol is burned by the average car. 

The findings come from campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E).

‘Simply no comparison’

Lucien Mathieu, Transport and E-mobility Analyst at T&E, said: “When it comes to raw materials there is simply no comparison. Over its lifetime, an average fossil-fuel car burns the equivalent of a stack of oil barrels 25 storeys high. If you take into account the recycling of battery materials, only around 30kg of metals would be lost - roughly the size of a football.”

Lithium, cobalt and nickel are three of the key materials used in making EV batteries.

The study predicts that, as technology advances, the amount of raw materials needed for battery production will fall even further. 

And in 2035, over a fifth of the lithium and almost two-thirds (65%) of the cobalt needed to make a new battery could come from recycling. 

A cut in emissions

Europe will likely produce enough batteries to supply its own EV market as early as 2021, the study says.

Already 22 battery-making facilities, named ‘gigafactories’, are planned for the next decade. These will have the capacity to produce power for around eight million battery electric cars.

In the EU, emissions from light duty vehicles (cars and vans) currently account for 14% of total emissions of CO₂ and more than half of CO₂ emissions from transport.

T&E says mass switching to EVs could cut CO₂ significantly.

EV registrations grew by 186% in 2020

The study comes as British motorists prepare for a future where EVs look set to be the norm.

In 2017, the government announced that there would be a ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars after 2040. This has since been moved forward to 2035.

And there are signs that EVs are growing in numbers on British roads already.

Both battery and plug-in hybrid electric cars accounted for more than one in 10 registrations in 2020 – up from around one in 30 in 2019, figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) show. 

Demand for battery electric vehicles grew by 186% last year to 108,205 units, while registrations of plug-in hybrids rose 91% to 66,877. 

The SMMT says there is room for further growth as most of these registrations (68%) were for company cars.

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