Europe lagging behind in battery metals production – report

Electric car charging. (Image by Santeri Viinamäki, Wikimedia Commons).

A report on battery metals produced by Aperio Intelligence on behalf of Eurobattery Minerals forecasts a considerable increase in raw materials demand for Europe’s e-mobility sector by 2025, which is unlikely to be met by local producers.

According to the document, Europe produced around 750,000 EVs in 2019, a total that is set to rise to more than 4 million in 2025. This equates to an increase from 4% of market share in 2019 to 22% market share in 2025. 

Aperio Intelligence says this production growth can be broadly split between battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) with BEV increasing the share of overall production over the next decade.

By 2025, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK are expected to produce about 85% of Europe’s EVs, even if leading manufacturers split operations between Europe and Asia.

Europe produced around 750,000 EVs in 2019, a total that is set to rise to more than 4 million in 2025

When it comes to sales volumes, Europe’s market for EVs increased by 137% in 2020 and 44% in 2019 with The Netherlands and Germany leading the pack.

By looking at these production and consumption figures for the EU and adding them to those of other regions, the analyst forecasts that copper demand solely from battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars and vans would grow from approximately 52,000 tonnes in 2019 to around 317,000 tonnes in 2025. Demand for nickel, on the other hand, would increase from 22,500 tonnes in 2019 to 129,000 tonnes in 2025 while 51,600 tonnes of cobalt will be needed in 2025 compared to 9,000 tonnes in 2019.

The report’s most recent data, however, show that the EU was responsible for only 13% of the 20.4 million tonnes of copper produced globally in 2019, a large portion of which – 399,000 tonnes – was produced in Poland, followed by Spain, Bulgaria and Sweden.

Similarly, the EU’s mined nickel ore production is a fraction of global production and has been mainly focused in Finland, with approximately 39,000 tonnes in 2019, and Greece, with some 14,000 tonnes in 2019. 

European cobalt production was mainly a byproduct of the mining operations of Finnish state-owned company Terrafame and Swedish Boliden. Data from 2018 reveal that the EU – through Finland – contributed just 1,377 tonnes or 0.9% of the 156,483 tonnes of cobalt mined in that year. 

Overall, the continent imports 86% of the cobalt it needs and, based on information by the European Commission cited in Aperio’s review, its demands will require five times more cobalt by 2030 and over 15 times more by 2050 compared to current supply levels.

“The report clearly shows the need to scale up mining production and the sourcing of raw materials within the EU,” Roberto García Martínez, Eurobattery Minerals CEO, said in a media statement. “We need to act quickly to enable the electric car revolution and ultimately reach the Agenda 2030 targets outlined by the UN. From the report, it is clear that Europe needs to move faster to meet the demand for these materials. A sustainable car industry cannot continue to rely on unsustainable mining.”

15 0