Electric cars to change mining investment

THE rise of the electric vehicle will lead to a dramatic change in the consumption of both metals and fuels that will require mining investment of US$100 billion to $150 billion, a study by McKinsey has found.
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The greater take up of electric vehicles is going to change the mining investment dynamic.

However, it will not be a panacea to the fight against climate change - instead it will lead to a changing of fossil fuel consumption.

"Increased EV adoption will affect more and different natural resources, as well as multiple industries, different geographies, and levels of carbon emissions," the McKinsey study states.

While EVs accounted for only about 1% of global annual vehicle sales in 2016 and just 0.2% of vehicles on the road, McKinsey estimates that by 2030 EVs, including battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, could rise to almost 20% of annual global sales and almost 35% of sales in Europe.

The cost of an EV can be broken down largely into the cost of its battery (40% to 50%), electric power train (about 20%), and other elements of the vehicle itself (30% to 40%). Of these, battery costs will be the most important in the medium term.

EV growth will put pressure on the costs of crucial battery inputs, including cobalt and lithium, for which demand will rise sharply.

"That dynamic has already begun to unfold," McKinsey said.

"The costs of cobalt and lithium have more than doubled since 2015, an effect that has resulted in a net increase in EV production costs over that time.

"As well, mining's hard realities will still apply, including lead times of up to several years and ecological and social concerns in regions within Africa and South America where much of these raw materials are found. Even as a green solution, in other words, EVs will have costs as well as benefits for society, our environment, and the resources we consume."

EV adoption will significantly affect demand for a different fossil fuel: natural gas.

"More EVs mean that more electricity will have to be produced," McKinsey said.

"While coal will be part of the equation, approximately 80% of the forecast growth in US electricity demand is expected to be met with natural gas. If half of the automobiles on American roads were EVs, daily US natural-gas demand would be expected to increase by more than 20%."