The future of sustainable EV manufacturing
With more than 250,000 EVs registered in the UK in 2022 and a million now on our roads, EVs are more popular than ever. Affordable personal electric vehicle leases and salary sacrifice schemes are driving the adoption of EVs so more drivers can play an important role in the move toward a more sustainable future.
However, the increasing demand for EVs puts pressure on manufacturers around green battery production. The challenge for manufacturers is to meet this huge growth in demand while improving sustainability in manufacturing of batteries to support the transition to a low-carbon economy. In this blog, we'll explore the future of sustainable EV manufacturing, the latest eco-friendly production methods, and how this benefits the environment.
What does sustainable manufacturing mean?
Sustainable manufacturing aims to reduce harm to the environment, conserve our natural resources, and support social and economic well-being while producing the goods we need for everyday life. It involves putting strategies in place to reduce waste, decrease energy usage, promote green design, make sure there are safe working conditions, and balance environmental, social, and economic factors to create products that don't harm the planet.
It can include using renewable energy sources, optimising production processes to minimise waste and energy usage, and using recycled or eco-friendly materials into products. It can also include implementing a circular economy approach, where materials used in production can be reused to reduce waste and promote ethical labour practices throughout the supply chain.
Where do raw materials for EVs come from?
The raw materials for EVs come from various sources and include lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, mostly mined in countries such as Chile, Australia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Lithium mining used to get some flak for using a lot of water, but things are looking up. New methods like direct lithium extraction are being developed to make mining less water-intensive and better for the environment. In the UK, a company called British Lithium has been working on a way to get lithium from granite micra, which we have plenty of here. In January 2022, they announced that they successfully produced lithium at a small scale, becoming the world's first company to mine and refine lithium in one place. It's a big step forward for sustainable lithium mining, and it's exciting to see these positive changes happening.
How sustainable is EV battery production?
Sustainable EV battery production is making significant strides toward reducing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process. Manufacturers are putting a range of sustainable practices in place, such as using renewable energy sources in production, reducing waste, and sourcing materials responsibly.
For example, Tesla has installed a large solar array at its Gigafactory, which generates enough renewable energy to power the facility while reducing carbon emissions. Some companies are also investing in recycling technologies to extract materials from old batteries to reduce the need for new materials. By improving the sustainability of battery production, the industry is moving towards a more responsible and eco-friendly approach, which is critical for EVs' long-term success and for reducing carbon emissions.
Which EVs are the most eco-friendly?
The eco-friendliness of a specific EV model depends on the type of battery used, the motor's efficiency, the energy source used to charge the battery and how it's driven. Here are some of the most eco-friendly EVs available.
- Tesla Model 3: The Tesla Model 3 offers an impressive 300-mile range in its long range model, making it an excellent choice for eco-conscious drivers. With an energy efficiency of 250 Wh/mile, this Ev requires significantly less power for long trips compared to many of its rivals, resulting in lower energy consumption.
- Nissan Leaf: Nissan has emerged as a pioneer in eco-friendly EV production. With its vehicle-to-grid capability and being manufactured locally in the UK, the Nissan Leaf has a big role in promoting sustainability. Alongside its impressive 210-mile range on a single charge, Nissan remains at the forefront of developing battery sustainability. In a great demonstration of their commitment, Nissan recycled old EV batteries for the Cricket World Cup in 2019, using them to power the Bennington Cricket Club.
- Polestar 3: Polestar, the innovative all-electric cousin to Volvo, has made remarkable strides in sustainability. They’ve made great advancements by incorporating recycled materials into their seats and are actively pursuing the goal of developing a fully carbon-neutral car by 2030. The Polestar 3 only highlights their focus on sustainability. This EV boasts an impressive range of 305 miles and an outstanding efficiency of 369 Wh/mi.
There are many things to consider when looking at how eco-friendly EVs are, such as the electricity source for charging the car, materials used in production, the batteries, and the overall energy efficiency of the car., According to Auto Express, the number one EV for 2023 is the fully-electric Fiat 500. It’s eco-friendly too with a focus on sustainable materials used for the interior. The seats are made using a special type of yarn called Seaqual® which is made by weaving together recycled plastic, with 10% of it coming from the sea and the remaining 90% from land. It also won Best Electric Car for Marie Claire’s inaugural Sustainability Awards in 2021 for its innovative features and cool design.
What does the future look like for sustainable EV manufacturing?
The future of sustainable EV manufacturing is exciting, with advancements in technology and processes that will help reduce the environmental impact of EVs. The UK Government has also committed over £211 million to the research, development, and production of EV batteries. Here are some of the key trends and innovations shaping the future of sustainable EV manufacturing.
- Sustainable materials: Manufacturers increasingly use sustainable materials in EV production, including recycled plastics and bio-based materials. For example, the Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV features seats made from recycled materials, and the Ford Mustang Mach-E's interior carpets are made from recycled plastic bottles.
- Advanced battery chemistry: EV battery manufacturers are developing more advanced batteries, such as solid-state batteries, which have higher energy density, enhanced safety, faster charging times, and potential for longer lifespan compared to traditional lithium-ion batteries.These batteries are more sustainable because they need fewer rare and expensive materials to produce, and are easier to recycle.
- Renewable energy: EV manufacturers are increasingly using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power to power their production facilities, reducing their carbon footprint and contributing to a more sustainable energy future.
- Artificial intelligence and automation: Artificial intelligence and automation in production processes reduce waste and energy consumption. For example, Tesla's factory in Fremont, California, uses robots to assemble its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, speeding up the manufacturing process.
- Recycling and reuse: EV manufacturers are investing in recycling technologies to extract valuable materials from used batteries, reducing the need for new mining. Also, some companies are exploring the second life of EV batteries, where old batteries can be repurposed for energy storage.
- Closed-loop manufacturing: This involves recycling and reusing materials throughout production to reduce waste. For example, BMW's recycling program recovers materials from end-of-life EVs and reintroduces them into production. This is also known as a circular economy.
The future of sustainable EV manufacturing is promising, with companies investing in innovative technologies and processes to reduce the environmental impact of electric vehicles. With the continued focus on sustainable materials, advanced battery chemistry, renewable energy, recycling, and circular production, the EV industry is well-positioned to be a leader in sustainable manufacturing.
We can help you switch to greener, more sustainable transport with personal EV leases and salary sacrifice schemes. These make EV ownership more accessible and affordable while supporting a more sustainable future. If you're ready to begin your EV journey, check out our electric car range today.