With the ban of new petrol and diesel cars in place in the UK by 2030, sales of electric cars are expected to surge. Plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles accounted for more than 1 in 10 vehicle registrations in 2020, up from 1 in 30 in 2019, according to data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2030, 125 million electric vehicles will be owned around the world and the UK government aims for almost every car and van on the road to be zero emission by 2050.

But just how green are they? 

Electric cars are undoubtedly cleaner than fossil fuel run cars. Although more energy is required to make electric vehicles than petrol, you still save more energy in the long run. The deficit is paid off quickly and even, when with no alternative, the electricity used to charge the vehicles is driven by fossil fuels, they are still greener.

However, it is important to address the huge implications for our natural resources not only to produce green technologies like electric cars, but to keep them charged.

Challenges

For every car on our roads to be zero emission by 2050, just under double the current total annual world cobalt production, 75% of the world’s lithium production and at least 50% of the world’s copper production would be required.

Currently, electric cars rely on lithium and cobalt batteries to run, which, whilst undoubtedly better for the environment than carbon, aren’t entirely clean.

Cobalt mining

Cobalt is a key ingredient in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars, because it enables the energy density required in batteries intended to last for hundreds of miles per charge.

However, the mining of cobalt is fraught with political issues. 60% of cobalt comes from the Dominican Republic of Congo where children as young

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