The Need for EV Batteries
Electric vehicles (EVs) are a crucial part of the transition to clean energy sustainability, but they rely on batteries to power them. The demand for these batteries is increasing rapidly, with some estimates predicting that global demand for lithium-ion batteries will reach 1,200 GWh by 2030. To meet this demand, many companies are building gigafactories, large-scale battery production facilities, around the world. According to data from the Financial Times, at least 20 such projects with an annual capacity of more than 30GWh have been announced across Europe, up from a handful before the pandemic. However, many of these projects have been delayed until 2025 or later due to supply chain issues and other challenges. As Mikac, the CEO of Croatian battery maker Rimac, noted, “It’s not just about building a factory, it’s about building a complete ecosystem around it.”
In the United States, several gigafactories have also been announced, with a total value of over $10 billion. These facilities aim to reduce reliance on battery imports and create jobs in the clean energy sector.
Gigafactories and Mineral Shortages
However, the production of batteries also requires minerals such as cobalt, nickel, and manganese, which are in short supply. This has led some to believe that deep-sea mining could be a solution to this supply gap, with some companies planning to begin operations as early as next year. The International Seabed Authority, which has control over international waters, has granted permits for deep-sea mining to several companies, including China National Offshore Oil Corporation and UK Seabed Resources.
The Controversy of Deep-Sea Mining
Deep-sea mining is a controversial topic, with significant political pushback against the practice. The cold, dark environment of the deep sea is home to fragile species like deep-water coral, which can live for thousands of years. If the habitat is destroyed, it may not be able to recover.
Digging and dredging the ocean floor could also create plumes of sediment that drift through the water, smothering marine life and releasing toxins like mercury that could enter the food chain. When mining companies bring rocks to the surface to process them on ships, the waste will be dumped back into the water, creating more poisonous plumes. The disruption could also affect the fishing industry and release carbon stored on the ocean floor.
Many countries, including Germany, Palau, Fiji, Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Chile, Spain, Ecuador, and Panama, have called for a precautionary pause, delay, or moratorium until more research is done. France has called for an outright ban. Other countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands, and Portugal, have reiterated their position that commercial mining should not begin until regulations have been adopted.
Alternatives to Deep-Sea Mining Sustainability
However, not all companies are in favor of deep-sea mining. BMW and Volkswagen, for example, have announced that they will not buy minerals from deep-sea mining until it can be proven to be sustainable. In my opinion, deep-sea mining should not be pursued until it can be shown to be environmentally and socially responsible. The risks of disrupting fragile deep-sea ecosystems and releasing toxins and carbon into the water are too great.
Alternative sources and technologies should be explored to meet the demand for EV batteries. Some companies are already working on innovative solutions, such as Impossible Metals, a startup that uses robotic vehicles to selectively harvest minerals from the ocean floor while avoiding marine life and leaving behind habitat corridors to preserve biodiversity. Other alternatives include recycling existing batteries and finding new sources of minerals on land.
Conclusion: Sustainability is Key
The future of clean energy depends on finding sustainable solutions to the shortages of minerals used in EV batteries. Deep-sea mining may offer a potential solution, but it must be proven to be environmentally and socially responsible before it should be pursued. Until then, we should continue to explore alternative sources and technologies that prioritize sustainability.
If you are a company focused on sustainability and are looking to drive your international sales and revenue growth, I encourage you to reach out to me to discuss how I can help. Together, we can work towards a sustainable future for all.