Electrification of car traffic is important for achieving climate targets
The modernisation of the car stock in Europe is already well under way – and the development of the battery industry is vital for this.
The deployment of electric cars in Europe started seeing good growth last year. This rising trend has continued in the first months of 2021. Compared to the first quarter of last year, growth figures for the corresponding quarter of 2021 were almost two and a half times higher. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the recent sales trends are encouraging but that achieving shared climate and energy goals calls for even faster market uptake.
Matti Hietanen, CEO of Finnish Minerals Group, says that the battery industry plays an important role in the electrification of road transport. That said, development work in the industry has impacts that extend beyond transport.
“The European battery industry is now developing at a rapid pace specifically thanks to the rise of electric cars. In technical terms, this means shorter charging times, greater energy-efficiency and longer battery lives. In addition to the electrification of car traffic, this work supports the transition to the use of clean energy with batteries,” says Hietanen.
Europe is also currently reforming its battery legislation. It is likely that the upcoming regulation will impose requirements on aspects such as the responsible raw material procurement, material-specific recovery targets, recycling and the utilisation of recycled materials in production.
Lifecycle CO2 emissions of electric cars are expected to decline further
Nickel, cobalt, lithium, manganese, and graphite are important minerals in battery production. Rare earth elements are required for the permanent magnets used in electric car engines.
Continuous work to reduce CO2 emissions from the mining production of minerals is ongoing in Finland, for instance. This supports the reduction of the lifecycle emissions of cars.
“The average lifecycle CO2 emissions of electric cars are smaller than those of internal combustion engine powered cars almost all over the world. Here in Europe, the CO2 emissions of electric cars are the lowest in those countries that use hardly any coal power. In the future, the utilisation of recycled materials will further decrease the carbon footprint of batteries and thereby that of electric cars,” says Vesa Koivisto, SVP of Battery Operations of Finnish Minerals Group.
In Europe, the use of coal-generated electricity is expected to decline significantly during the current decade, which will further cut the CO2 emissions of electric cars. Even now, the greenhouse gas emissions of fully electric cars over their lifecycle are 45-55 per cent lower relative to conventional combustion engine cars in the EU, according to the IEA.
Electrification covers all road transport
Charging electric cars has been a tricky issue for many consumers but things are changing rapidly. In Europe, this can now be seen above all in the number of electric car models available and the development of the charging network. According to a recent study by BloombergNEF, electric cars and vans will be more affordable than fossil fuel cars by 2027.
Road transport is also evolving in other ways. In addition to passenger cars, two- and three-wheeled vehicles have been going electric at a rapid pace, especially in Asia. In bus transport, electrification has focused on intracity transport for the time being.
However, the electrification of lorry transport has only just begun. For example, in Europe, more electric lorries are required to replace the current vehicle stock, and charging infrastructure suitable for lorries is also necessary.
The mission of Finnish Minerals Group is to responsibly maximise the value of Finnish minerals. We manage the State’s mining industry shareholdings and strive to develop the Finnish value chain of lithium-ion batteries. In addition, we are engaged in long-term technology development of the mining and battery industry. Through our work, we contribute to Europe moving towards electric transport and a more sustainable future. www.mineralsgroup.fi