The rise of the electric car depends on lithium, but the mine openings necessary for its growth encounter a social and environmental obstacle.
With the good old gasoline or diesel car, no one asks the question of where the fuel comes from. However, it comes exclusively from abroad and mainly outside Europe.
But the boom of the electric car goes hand in hand with an ecological conscience, and therefore the origin of its components. While most models are made in Europe and some in France, the batteries come from Asia.
Going further, we must study the origin of raw materials, including lithium. This metal weighs about 100 g / kWh of battery. So that’s 2.4 kg on a Fiat 500e Action, 5.2 kg for the Renault ZOE and around 10 kg on a Tesla Model S.
This lithium has to be found somewhere. Buried in the earth of certain regions, it must be extracted. Lithium mines, like fuel, seemed still far away, as in Chile, China or Australia.
However, the explosion in sales of electric cars (and other electrical devices) led to the opening of new mines. Lithium demand will therefore multiply by 18 by 2030 and 60 times more in 2050 according to the vice-president of the European Commission.
As battery manufacturing grows in Europe, it makes sense to bring these mines closer. This is also the wish of the European Union, to secure supply. Except that we discover at that time the drawbacks.
In Serbia for example, a Rio Tinto project of more than 2 billion euros arouses concern, could one see on France 2. If the expropriations are compensated by a buyout of the houses with high value, the pollution would threaten. Others don’t want to give up their farmland.
To extract lithium, it must be separated and purified chemically, with plenty of water. Problem, some pollutants can escape. On the site under construction, arsenic has already been detected, killing all forms of plants around. Environmental defenders and local populations are therefore worried about large-scale pollution in their region.
Closer, another mine is raising the revolt in Portugal according to Euronews. The reasons are the same. But even closer, France has lithium reserves. It’s the case in Alsace and Rittershoffen, where a project is emerging for French lithium.
However, after stopping and relaunching, we will have to wait until 2026 truly 100% French batteries.
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