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The UK is Burning the Candle at Both Ends, and Now it’s Time to Address the EV Crisis

Investing in suitable recycling facilities is imperative, but it's time to get a move on...

It’s 2021, and sales of electric cars are through the roof. Consumers think they’re getting a great new car and making a green purchasing decision. This should surely be something to celebrate. What’s not to love? Well, the unfortunate truth is the UK doesn't yet have the capability to recycle the car batteries resulting in serious end of life disposal issues.

We all know fossil fuels are unsustainable, but we aren’t halting our consumption. Without serious intervention, the Earth’s supply of oil will run out by 2052, gas by 2060, and coal by 2090 — dates that are just around the corner.

Yes, electric vehicles are greener in that they produce fewer lifetime emissions than petrol cars. But the truth is, electric vehicles also depend on the extraction of Earth’s finite resources. Electric vehicles rely on lithium-ion (Li-ion) chemistry traction batteries, but as primary lithium production uses vast amounts of water, the mining of raw materials depletes water tables wherever it takes place.

While we can’t stop all primary extraction, recycling these batteries would recover non-renewable materials and reduce the cost of new batteries. Plus, the rare metals in these Li-ion batteries pose a risk to the environment if they aren’t disposed of properly, making the case for recycling even more convincing.

Investing in suitable recycling facilities is a sensible solution, but we need to get a move on...

It is predicted that by 2035, most UK vehicles will contain an Li-ion battery — partly because of the growing electric vehicle market, and partly because the UK government is aiming to ban all new diesel and petrol cars by 2030.

If we take the average lifespan of a battery to be 11 years, then the volume of batteries coming to ‘end of life’ is projected to be around 1.4 million packs by 2040. Unfortunately, the UK does not currently have the industrial capacity for this level of lithium-ion battery recycling. If we’re serious about addressing the EV crisis, capitalising on recycling is the best place to start. But more needs to be done.

For one, we need to establish UK-based commercial scale recycling and reduce our reliance on costly exports to mainland Europe. And luckily, there are some new companies stepping into the breach. For instance, Technology Minerals Ltd. (now approaching IPO) is a majority shareholder across a portfolio of battery metal projects. Their mission is to sustainably extract the raw materials required for Li-ion battery cathodes, and help to recycle spent Li-ion batteries for reuse by battery manufacturers.

The company is experiencing impressive growth, recently bringing onboard Natasha Allden, CEO and founder of MULTIPLY, to further scale the business.

Most importantly, it will be the first listed UK company to create a circular economy for battery metals within a single group, helping to eliminate battery metal waste and slow down the continual use of resources.

The take-home? There’s hope for the future of electric vehicles, we just need smart investments and continued research to keep the UK on track.

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