By 2050, there will be at least 2bn cars on the world's roads. If all of those cars were EVs, annual production of neodymium and dysprosium would need to increase by 70% and stay at that level until 2050. On the same basis, annual copper output would need to increase 100%, and cobalt output would need to increase by at least 250% to meet global demand.
The increase in renewable energy infrastructure needed to provide power for EVs would also consume more metals and minerals. Wind turbines require a lot of steel, while solar panel installations consume several scarce minerals, such as high purity silicon, indium, tellurium and gallium. Extracting the minerals themselves is also a power-hungry process, adding to demand.
Demand for copper, for example, could rise by 275 to 350% by 2050, according to academics at Yale University. The World Bank estimated in 2017 that action to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2C from pre-industrial levels could mean a seven-fold increase in demand for cobalt and an 11-fold increase in demand for lithium by 2050.
The current EU target is to ramp up production of Electric Vehicles 200 times by 2030. But, here’s the thing – this would lead to an increased demand for production inputs of cobalt, lithium and nickel and copper to build the electrical vehicles. However at 100 times the demand world cobalt resources would be exhausted in 8 months, lithium in 5 years, nickel in 4 months and copper in 5 months.
Electric cars use twice as much copper as internal combustion engines. So-called smart-home systems - such as Alphabet Inc’s Nest thermostat and Amazon.com Inc’s Alexa personal assistant - will consume about 1.5 million tonnes of copper by 2030, up from 38,000 tonnes today.
Negative effects from the mining of metals like aluminum, cobalt and rare earths could impact a range of creatures from flamingoes to gorillas, plants, and even deep sea creatures.
The Future of Electronics May Depend on Deep Sea Mining for Minerals
If, as the IEA predicts, there are 125 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2030, it will require roughly 10 million tonnes of copper – a 50% increase over current annual global copper consumption (20 million tonnes).
The additional wind turbines built by 2030 would require roughly two million tonnes of copper – about 10% of the world’s current production.
That’s not even taking into account how much copper would be needed for a quadrupling of solar power, and all the enhancements to the electrical grid and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles that will be required.
Given how much aluminum, metallurgical coal, copper, aluminum, zinc and rare earths are required for each wind turbine and each EV – and how much lithium and cobalt are needed for EV batteries – it begs the question: Will the transition to a low-carbon economy lead to “peak metals” (the point of maximum metal production)?
The targets that governments are setting for themselves for electric vehicle and renewable energy adoption will require a massive increase in mining, and there’s some question as to whether the new mines required can even be built in time to meet the demand according to the timelines being set.
Rare earth metals are used in solar panels and wind turbines—as well as electric cars and consumer electronics. We don't recycle them, and there's not enough to meet growing demand.
According to some estimates, humanity currently uses resources 50% faster than they can be regenerated, but several major resource shocks have gone underreported – and may change the way we live irrevocably. The top 3 supply shocks coming 1. Helium 2. Sand 3. Phosphorus.
Final List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security
Take any of the minerals in the next list and Google it, followed by the word, 'shortages'.
This next graph shows how many times more we need of each critical mineral for all our green energy dreams to come true.