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Battery raw materials

No mobility transition without raw materials: what development policy has to do with our lithium-ion batteries

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01.06.2021 |

The mobility of the future must be sustainable. It should (1) meet the growing demand for mobility, (2) reduce damage to health from emissions, and (3) contribute to international climate protection goals by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to changing mobility behavior, e-mobility is the key factor for locally emission-free mobility in the future.  

Raw materials and e-mobility  

When it comes to sustainability in the transport sector, it is not only the use of renewable energies that plays a major role, but also the procurement of the necessary raw materials for new energy technologies. Above all, the production of batteries for electric vehicles, for example, is very raw material intensive. E-mobility is not possible without raw materials. A large proportion of the raw materials required for batteries come from developing and emerging countries. For them, the enormous increase in demand for raw materials offers opportunities but also challenges.

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Development opportunities and challenges

Implemented responsibly, mining can make an important contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It serves as an important source of revenue for many countries; for example, the value of mining production as a percentage of GDP in 2017 was 16.6% in Chile and 13.6% in Zimbabwe. Moreover, millions of people are employed in the sector worldwide. On the other hand, mining is also repeatedly associated with social and environmental challenges, such as health risks due to a lack of occupational health and safety, deforestation, potential water contamination, or child labor. Social conflicts can also arise with regard to land and resource use.

New publication "Raw materials for electric mobility - A development perspective"

In order not to lose track of the development policy dimensions involved in mining raw materials for the mobility transition, the Extractives and Development (X4D) sector program on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has published a brochure on this topic. The brochure takes a close look at the raw materials relevant to battery production - aluminum, graphite, cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel, tin. The focus is on the origin and the conditions under which the raw materials are mined and processed. Their positive potential as a contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals and the developmental risk of each raw material are analyzed. Examples of German development cooperation projects and interesting short facts complement each raw materials chapter. Did you know, for example, that graphite is made of pure carbon, just like diamonds?


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Way Forward

How can we maximize the opportunities of raw material production and minimize its challenges? Substitution and recycling of raw materials could play a major role in this. However, recycling of battery raw materials currently still faces technical and economic challenges, with only 5% of battery cells recycled in the EU in 2018. Substitution, combined with further development of battery technologies, will continue to depend on innovative research that will show which raw material composition is most suitable. In addition to chapters on recycling and substitution, the brochure provides an overview of the projects and countries in which the German development cooperation is already active with projects. The EU has also taken up the issue. In December 2020, the European Commission proposed to modernize the EU regulations for batteries. This new regulatory framework aims to improve the sustainability and increase the circularity potential of batteries. Therefore, the entire battery value chain will be considered, from primary raw material extraction to the circular economy.

The path has been set for a sustainable mobility transition. However, it is important to carefully consider the development potential as well as the challenges. The X4D brochure provides a detailed overview.

Announcement Webinar

A digital presentation of the brochure will take place on July 7th, 2021 from 3:30 - 4:30 pm (CET). During the event, the sector program Extractives and Development will briefly present the content of the publication and go into a discussion with experts from NRGI, the GIZ raw materials project in the Andean countries and someone from the EU parliament working on the new EU battery regulation (tbc).

For further information please contact Lisa Stellner.


Booklet englisch

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