HEC-Ecole de gestion de l'Université de Liège
HEC-Ecole de gestion de l'Université de Liège

What are the need for resources of electric cars production, is it sustainable and how?

Benakli, Loïc ULiège
Promotor(s) : Ernst, Damien ULiège
Date of defense : 27-Jun-2022 • Permalink :
Title : What are the need for resources of electric cars production, is it sustainable and how?
Translated title : [fr] Quels sont les besoins en ressources pour la production de voitures électriques, est-ce durable et comment?
Author : Benakli, Loïc ULiège
Date of defense  : 27-Jun-2022
Advisor(s) : Ernst, Damien ULiège
Committee's member(s) : Paquay, Célia ULiège
Language : English
Number of pages : 78
Keywords : [fr] Electric, Vehicle, Material, Battery, Scarcity, Recycling, Chemistry, Extender, Depletion, Evolution
Discipline(s) : Business & economic sciences > Multidisciplinary, general & others
Business & economic sciences > Strategy & innovation
Business & economic sciences > Production, distribution & supply chain management
Name of the research project : To assess the sustainability of batteries' materials in electric vehicles. The objectives resides in analyses & solutions to improve predicted results.
Target public : Professionals of domain
General public
Institution(s) : Université de Liège, Liège, Belgique
Degree: Master en sciences de gestion, à finalité spécialisée en global supply chain management
Faculty: Master thesis of the HEC-Ecole de gestion de l'Université de Liège


[fr] The society is facing multiple worrying problems. Among those, one particularly complex issue is the global warming due to greenhouse gases emissions. In 2016, the transportation sector was responsible for 16.2% of those emissions. The same year, 11.9% of global greenhouse gases emissions came from road transport only (Ritchie & Roser, 2020).
Nowadays, main solution proposed to reduce those emissions consists in transitioning to electric road transport. However, governments and citizens have multiple concerns about electric vehicles. Two of those are tackled in this thesis: The pollution of electric vehicles compared to fossil fueled vehicles & the scarcity and risk of shortage of components needed to produce electric vehicles.
About the first concern, it is proven that electric vehicles do emit less than fossil fueled vehicles. Indeed, considering their whole lifecycle, regardless of the country, electric vehicles always emit less greenhouse gases (International Council on Clean Transportation Europe & Georg Bieker, 2021). However, for what concerns materials' possible scarcity, the problem is more complex.
The purpose of this thesis is to tackle this potential problem. Firstly, most critical materials present in electric vehicles batteries were identified. Then, an evaluation of the required quantities for estimated and potential growths in those vehicles production was realized. Most critical materials were identified regarding their potential depletion. Those materials are Lithium, Cobalt & Nickel.
After that, impact of recycling was investigated. This highlighted one fact: recycling of lithium is currently low despite the existence of efficient techniques to recover almost 100% of those materials (Chan et al., 2021). However, Cobalt & Nickel have already high recovery rates with disposed batteries (Mossali et al., 2020).
This thesis then investigates possible substitutes & complements for electric vehicles. Sodium-ion batteries have promising characteristics. In stationary storage sector, they work as well as numerous lithium-ion batteries (Abraham, 2020). For electric vehicles application however, sodium-ion batteries have not the performance needed yet (Zhang et al., 2019).
Possible extensions for electric vehicles' batteries were also investigated. Hydrogen fuel cells & Zincair battery packs are possible extenders (Wu et al., 2019), (Tran et al., 2020). They present numerous advantages, and in particular leverage reduction in size of batteries as they increase electric vehicles' range. This need’s reduction for bigger batteries results in a demand’s reduction for rare materials.
Considering all these tools, the thesis investigates possible materials' scarcity according to the most ambitious scenario of electric vehicles' production (International Energy Agency, 2020). This assessment was made with actual recycling rates & their predicted evolution. It is to note that only actual battery chemistries already on road were considered.
Without the use of the aforementioned technologies, results of this analysis for 2030 shows an important materials' depletion. On the horizon of 2050, Cobalt reserves would be depleted. Analyzing global materials market, lithium & nickel would also be too scarce.
However, using intensively aforementioned technologies changes the results. Additional worldwide efforts on recycling with intensive usage of hydrogen zinc air extenders save rare resources. Sodiumion batteries could also be indirectly useful. Those could decrease rare materials' needs in stationary applications. Thus, using the good technologies, most of vehicles could be electric by 2050 without
depleting rare materials’ reserves. This would mean near zero emissions by 2050 for road transport.



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  • Benakli, Loïc ULiège Université de Liège > Master sc. gest., à fin.


Committee's member(s)

  • Paquay, Célia ULiège Université de Liège - ULiège > HEC Liège : UER > UER Opérations : Quantitative methods in management
    ORBi View his publications on ORBi
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