Electric vehicles are on the verge of capturing the global market share. UNCTAD forecasts a purchase of over 20 million electric cars in this upcoming decade. The UN body also estimates rise to $58 billion from $7 billion of the car batteries required to run these cars in the next four years.
The transition from ICE cars to electric-powered cars is part of the strategy in minimizing carbon emissions and other harmful gaseous emissions that challenge the global climate. A study by UNCTAD reveals that the raw materials for the EV batteries are nucleated in a few countries, making this venture an apple of discord.
For instance, 67% of cobalt is deep-seated at the heart of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). UNICEF reports that 20% of this cobalt is bought from artisanal mines. This UN body narrates how children are employed to work in these life-threatening mines for a measly income, thereby undermining human rights.
Elsewhere, lithium excavation in Chile utilizes approximately two-thirds of the water in Salar de Atamaca region mapping the region among the driest areas globally. The water forces out the brine in riveted wells. This move has sequestered the farmers and herders, making them vacate their ancestral lands. The excavation has generally degraded the ground in this region, defaced the landscape, and polluted the underground water.
UNCTAD’s director of international trade, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, admits that the countries that furnish the EV industry with these raw materials will benefit from trade. This statement is true because there is an increased need for raw materials in the EV industry. But, these countries are left as beggars without the ability to grow their chain value.
For instance, DRC requires the development of processing plants and refineries so that the citizens can benefit from employment opportunities. Nonetheless, since these countries have insufficient resources and leadership skills to initiate such projects, the purification process for these raw materials is shifted to developed countries, thereby benefiting their economies.
The UNCTAD report exhorts that countries like DRC should develop mines and refineries for these processes to attract more investment. The body also directs that the EV industry should devise new materials to model the batteries to minimize the pressure they exert on the countries with these scarce resources. Thus, researchers are working on the probability of utilizing the abundant silicon in place of graphite.
UNCTAD submits that reduced dependence on these nucleated resources will lower the cost of batteries, thereby escalating the uptake of Evs instead of ICE cars.
Finally, concerning environmental problems associated with mining the batteries’ raw materials, the UN body advocates for research on reliable mining methods and the utilization of the raw materials. These recommendations will counter the demand problem and open new commercial opportunities.