The shift to electric vehicles will mean less drilling for oil, but EVs still depend heavily on precious resources that come from deep within the Earth.
Making enough batteries to fulfill automakers' ambitious electrification goals requires copious amounts of lithium, cobalt and other metals that aren't readily flowing through the existing supply chain. Locating and safely extracting them are complex tasks starkly different from traditional automotive operations, and mastering those tasks will be crucial to succeeding in the EV era.
President Joe Biden is aiming for EVs to represent half of U.S. new-vehicle sales by 2030. That compares with 1.9 percent last year, according to Edmunds. Automakers have laid out their own goals, with Volvo planning to fully electrify its lineup by 2030. General Motors aspires to have a zero-emission light- vehicle portfolio by 2035, and Volkswagen has said nearly all of its vehicles will be emission-free by 2040.
Building vehicles has been the foundation of the automotive business for a century, but the absence of an established supply chain for EV batteries at this scale has pushed automakers to get involved earlier. They are partnering to open extraction sites for key battery metals such as lithium, joining consortiums to ensure the metals are sourced ethically and responsibly, working to shrink the carbon footprint of EV manufacturing, and developing plans for battery recycling and reuse.