“There is a focus on battery electric vehicles almost to the exclusion of other technology, and that is dangerous” Advanced Propulsion Centre CEO Ian Constance, Future Mobility Sector Day on 4 August 2022, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Games.
“While watching a documentary recently about mining Strontium, I was struck by the immense amount of processing this one mineral has to go through from being mined out of the ground to final use.
The documentary was based in a Strontium mine in Spain. The Strontium having been dug out of the ground with a diesel powered JCB, was then transported by diesel truck to Germany for processing. Once separated from the other rocks through various processes which included hundreds of thousands of litres of water & untold amounts of electricity; the final product being not pure enough, was then processed again, before being suitable for use in items such as:
- television screens (1)
- producing ferrite ceramic magnets & in refining zinc
- Radioactive strontium therapy treats cancers that have spread to the bone (2)
- the world’s most accurate atomic clock
- making fireworks burn red
What struck me the most about this documentary was the vast amount of emissions created & energy used in the processing of this one mineral.
If this one example of mining to end use for this one mineral produced this amount of emissions; what level of emissions are other minerals producing from mining to end use? For example, lithium & cobalt which is used in EV batteries?
It is no secret that the mining of critical earth minerals for electric car batteries & other technologies, creates vast amounts of emissions/pollution in their mining, movement & processing. Both cobalt & lithium are critical because of modern societies’ dependence on lithium-ion battery technology for mobile phones, laptops, & now EVs & in the case of cobalt, because of geopolitics, the bulk of the cobalt supply comes from the politically unstable Democratic Republic of Congo. While there are plenty of lithium & cobalt resources, there are fewer reserves of them. (3)
Electrification of the transport sector, particularly in the UK, has been hailed as a pivotal way in which the UK will reach net-zero by 2050. However, there seems to be an over reliance in the roll out of this one technology in the transport sector, to the detriment of all others.
The over reliance on electrification for the transport sector was featured at the Future Mobility Sector Day hosted by the West Midlands Growth Company on 4 August 2022 in conjunction with the Commonwealth Games. George Gillespie, Executive Chairman of HORIBA MIRA highlighted that the carbon footprint of manufacturing an EV was some 40% higher than the manufacture of a traditional ICE.
Ian Constance CEO, Advanced Propulsion Centre reiterated that being zero-emission at the tail pipe only addresses part of the issue. He went on to argue that we might fail to establish more sustainable solutions if we became complacent that electrification was putting us on track to net-zero. (4)
The Advanced Propulsion Centre champion companies who strive towards reducing emissions in propulsion & the transport sector. However, they are not blinkered to the vast array of other future fuel options above & beyond electrification & are keenly aware that to reach net-zero the transport sector is going to have to take a varied approach, rather than just relying on electrification.
One part of the transport sector often overlooked is heavy-duty & off highway, yet it is in this sector that they are leading the way in adaptation & understanding that there is not a one size fits all option.
There are already fleets of hydrogen trucks being rolled out across the globe. Dolphin N2 recently reported on the 27 Hyundai XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks being taken into fleet service by seven German companies spanning logistics, manufacturing & retail. (5) CNG trucks have been on our roads for some years now & pantographs power some trucks in Europe where the infrastructure allows. This is only a snapshot of the future fuel technologies being developed to address CO2 emissions in the heavy-duty & off-highway sector.
However, one fundamental difference in the redevelopment of heavy-duty & off-highway & passenger EV manufacture is in the supply chain.
To manufacture EV’s there have had to be numerous new supply chains developed to accommodate the needs of the EV technology. From powertrains to electrics & batteries; a large proportion of the manufacturing requires new supply chains & new infrastructure.
By comparison, the heavy-duty sector & off-highway can still use the majority of established supply chains, as the fundamental design of a heavy-duty truck or off-highway vehicle remains the same, needing to maintain the robust & hard-wearing components already manufactured in the traditional ICE manufacturing process.
So how do we go from Strontium mining to reliance on electrification?
It’s all about perspective & I feel some of the perspective about emissions & how we are to reduce the effects of climate change have got muddled along the way with a fixation on electrification as the ultimate answer to CO2 reduction, rather than looking at the much larger picture. Relying heavily on changing one technology in one sector to reduce CO2 emissions is not enough & requires an enormous perspective shift to achieve.”
Written by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2.