Katanga Mining's copper-cobalt mine in Democratic Republic. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Katanga Mining's copper-cobalt mine in Democratic Republic. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Darker side of electric cars in spotlight



Momentum is fast building behind electric vehicles as countries round the world move to reduce use of petrol and diesel for transport.

This summer France and the UK said they would ban combustion engines by 2040 and China has said it is studying such a move.

Volvo, now a Swedish-Chinese company, says every car it launches from 2019 will be either fully or partly electric. Volvo’s announcement this year was greeted as the first serious challenge to Tesla, the Californian electric car maker, from mainstream marques.

Analysts at UBS expect global sales of electric vehicles in 2025 to reach 14.2 million units, or 13.7 per cent of the total, compared with under 1 million units, or less than 1 per cent, in 2017.

This month, Germany’s BMW, Daimler and VW joined up with Ford to form a joint venture to open 400 charging stations across Europe. Such a charging network would reduce a lot of the anxiety that consumers have about buying electric cars.

But the push to electrification is causing some concern. There is a dark side to the electric vehicle revolution.

Every electric vehicle (EV) will have a significant environmental impact in production – often greater than the impact of making a car with a combustion engine, experts say. In particular, EVs will require a huge rise in the raw materials needed to create the batteries and related hardware.

One recent study by scientists in Norway has found that in some circumstances electric cars can have a greater impact on global warming than conventional cars. Electric cars are only as green as the power that supplies them and, in many parts of the world, most electricity is still derived from fossil fuels.

Guillaume Majeau-Bettez, one of the authors of the report from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, says he was shocked and disappointed by the study’s findings. "The electric car has great potential for improvement, but ultimately what will make it a success or failure from an environmental standpoint is how much we can clean up our electricity grid - both for the electricity you use when you drive your car, and for the electricity used for producing the car."

Mining companies are positioning themselves to meet the increased need for raw materials that include lithium from Australia and Chile, cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo and nickel from Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Russia and the Philippines.

Environmentalists are alarmed by the mines and smelters needed to supply the electric vehicle industry. The Philippines has closed or suspended 17 nickel mines this year because of environmental concerns.

In Columbia, residents who live near the Cerro Matoso nickel mine, which spun-off from BHP Billiton in 2015, have reported elevated rates of birth deformities and respiratory problems associated with exposure to pollution generated by nickel mining and smelting.

UBS estimates that the combined production of pure EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs will mean a 12-fold increase in battery power will be needed by 2025.

This will boost global cobalt demand for plug-in vehicles at an average rate of around 20 per cent per annum for the next five years. Lithium demand is also set to rise by 16 per cent per year over the course of the next decade, quadrupling by 2025 to 750,000 tonnes. As a result, prices of key commodities associated with making batteries have exploded.

While demand for the minerals is growing, concerns are accelerating over the environmental footprint of the vast processing plants that are required to turn rare earth elements into materials that are needed in electric vehicles. Many of these are in located China, where environmental standards are low and difficult to monitor.

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Most of the raw materials in an electric vehicle battery are used in the cathode, the electrode that provides electricity when the battery is discharging. “Processing lithium is not so much of a problem – because of where the materials are sourced from [Australia and Chile], " says David Merriman, the deputy division manager at the metals consultancy Roskill. "However, cobalt - which goes into the cathode in the battery - is causing a lot of concern. Much of it is produced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo so there are a lot of conflict mineral issues and child-labour issues. Downstream users are having to look at this closely.”

Graphite, another rare earth used in lithium ion batteries, is mostly produced and consumed in China. Mr Merriman says there are also concerns over the way this rare earth is mined, although the industry is now seeing more non-Chinese mine operators starting up, which may help to raise standards.

One of the problems with the surge in demand for metals for batteries is that increasingly the capacity for these minerals is coming from new and emerging mining companies, who may not have the same sustainability and responsibility standards as established miners.

The International Centre for Metals and Mining, based in London, is a lobbying organisation for the world’s biggest miners and has companies such as BHP, AngloAmerican and Barrick Gold as members. Codelco, the world’s largest copper miner, which announced this nonth that it is to mine lithium in Chile, is another member.

John Atherton, ICMM's director - health, safety and product stewardship, admits that there are problem areas in the world where rare metals are mined. “Regarding China, there are large areas where we don’t know what is going on and in other territories there are difficulties with governance and sometimes a clash between the approach of large-scale and small-scale miners.”

However, he insists that members of organisations such as ICMM, which has a sustainability framework that its members must follow, do genuinely want to curb their environmental impact. “Our members do have the skills to minimise impact and the amount of innovation that is going on means that there is a constant improvement, both in company performance and in the management of environmental risk and social risk,” Mr Atherton says.

He argues that an increasing dialogue between the downstream users of the metals – the car makers and battery manufacturers – means that new entrants into metals mining will be scrutinised and will need to prove themselves responsible, if they are to be part of an international supply chain.

Areeba Hamid, a senior Greenpeace clean air campaigner, says: “More electric cars will increase demand for lithium and cobalt, but this doesn’t have to mean environmental damage or human rights abuses. Companies need to fully commit to and resource responsible supply chain oversight and policies to ensure they don’t mine in ecologically important, vulnerable areas or encroach on local people’s rights and livelihoods.”

Greenpeace says efforts to reduce the price of EVs should focus on improving technology and economies of scale, not through the use of cheap labour or lower mining standards.

Down the line, to offset the environmental impact of mining, there will also need to be a large build-out in recycling facilities to meet the first wave of electric vehicles, analysts say. Currently more than 90 per cent of lead-acid batteries used in conventional petrol-engine cars are recycled, versus less than 5 per cent of lithium-ion batteries. An estimated 11 million tonnes of spent lithium-ion battery packs will be discarded between now and 2030, according to Canada-based Li-Cycle, a recycler of batteries.

Companies such as Belgium-based Umicore have already started to recycle lithium-ion batteries and are investing in expanding its capacity. Umicore expects huge volumes of spent batteries to start coming on to the market for recycling from around 2025.

So are consumers kidding themselves that buying an electric vehicle is “good” for the environment?

“There are two sides to the story: although emissions are better from an electric vehicle there is still an environmental impact at the mining and [power] generation stage," says Mr Merriman. "The good news is that that impact is improving.” And the picture will get better across Europe and in the US, as more electricity generation comes from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels.

Nissan, which builds its first mass-market electric car the Leaf in the UK, says it monitors its supply chain carefully to assess whether the mineral resources contained in materials or components used to manufacture its products have any harmful social effects, such as on human rights or the environment. “When there are concerns about the minerals being used, Nissan actively works to end that use,” a spokesman says.

Nissan is also working on battery recycling and has developed xStorage, which gives electric vehicle batteries a second life. The battery can be reused in homes and businesses as an energy storage unit, which the homeowner can control.

Nissan’s efforts show that manufacturers are aware that they will have to work hard to make electric vehicles more desirable and greener, despite governments around the world giving them a helping hand.

But it is Ms Hamid who explains why electric vehicles can only reduce, rather than eliminate, the impact on the environment. “To tackle both air pollution and climate change we will also need to drive less altogether and opt for walking or cycling instead, as well as improved public transport," she says.

"It is simply not sustainable to exchange every car on the road today with an electric car."

Company profile

Date started: January 2022
Founders: Omar Abu Innab, Silvia Eldawi, Walid Shihabi
Based: Dubai
Sector: PropTech / investment
Employees: 40
Stage: Seed
Investors: Multiple

Tips on buying property during a pandemic

Islay Robinson, group chief executive of mortgage broker Enness Global, offers his advice on buying property in today's market.

While many have been quick to call a market collapse, this simply isn’t what we’re seeing on the ground. Many pockets of the global property market, including London and the UAE, continue to be compelling locations to invest in real estate.

While an air of uncertainty remains, the outlook is far better than anyone could have predicted. However, it is still important to consider the wider threat posed by Covid-19 when buying bricks and mortar. 

Anything with outside space, gardens and private entrances is a must and these property features will see your investment keep its value should the pandemic drag on. In contrast, flats and particularly high-rise developments are falling in popularity and investors should avoid them at all costs.

Attractive investment property can be hard to find amid strong demand and heightened buyer activity. When you do find one, be prepared to move hard and fast to secure it. If you have your finances in order, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Lenders continue to lend and rates remain at an all-time low, so utilise this. There is no point in tying up cash when you can keep this liquidity to maximise other opportunities. 

Keep your head and, as always when investing, take the long-term view. External factors such as coronavirus or Brexit will present challenges in the short-term, but the long-term outlook remains strong. 

Finally, keep an eye on your currency. Whenever currency fluctuations favour foreign buyers, you can bet that demand will increase, as they act to secure what is essentially a discounted property.

Tenet

Director: Christopher Nolan

Stars: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh 

Rating: 5/5

RESULTS

6pm: Mazrat Al Ruwayah – Group 2 (PA) $40,000 (Dirt) 1,600m
Winner: AF Alajaj, Tadhg O’Shea (jockey), Ernst Oertel (trainer)

6.35pm: Race of Future – Handicap (TB) $80,000 (Turf) 2,410m
Winner: Global Storm, William Buick, Charlie Appleby

7.10pm: UAE 2000 Guineas – Group 3 (TB) $150,000 (D) 1,600m
Winner: Azure Coast, Antonio Fresu, Pavel Vashchenko

7.45pm: Business Bay Challenge – Listed (TB) $100,000 (T) 1,400m
Winner: Storm Damage, Patrick Cosgrave, Saeed bin Suroor

20.20pm: Curlin Stakes – Listed (TB) $100,000 (D) 2,000m
Winner: Appreciated, Fernando Jara, Doug O’Neill

8.55pm: Singspiel Stakes – Group 2 (TB) $180,000 (T) 1,800m
Winner: Lord Glitters, Daniel Tudhope, David O'Meara

9.30pm: Al Shindagha Sprint – Group 3 (TB) $150,000 (D) 1,200m
Winner: Meraas, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

INDIA'S TOP INFLUENCERS

Bhuvan Bam
Instagram followers: 16.1 million
Bhuvan Bam is a 29-year-old comedian and actor from Delhi, who started out with YouTube channel, “BB Ki Vines” in 2015, which propelled the social media star into the limelight and made him sought-after among brands.
Kusha Kapila
Instagram followers: 3.1 million
Kusha Kapila is a fashion editor and actress, who has collaborated with brands including Google. She focuses on sharing light-hearted content and insights into her life as a rising celebrity.
Diipa Khosla
Instagram followers: 1.8 million
Diipa Khosla started out as a social media manager before branching out to become one of India's biggest fashion influencers, with collaborations including MAC Cosmetics.
Komal Pandey
Instagram followers: 1.8 million
Komal Pandey is a fashion influencer who has partnered with more than 100 brands, including Olay and smartphone brand Vivo India.
Nikhil Sharma
Instagram followers: 1.4 million
Nikhil Sharma from Mumbai began his online career through vlogs about his motorcycle trips. He has become a lifestyle influencer and has created his own clothing line.
Source: Hireinfluence, various

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

ELECTION RESULTS

Macron’s Ensemble group won 245 seats.

The second-largest group in parliament is Nupes, a leftist coalition led by Jean-Luc Melenchon, which gets 131 lawmakers.

The far-right National Rally fared much better than expected with 89 seats.

The centre-right Republicans and their allies took 61.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is the most popular virtual currency in the world. It was created in 2009 as a new way of paying for things that would not be subject to central banks that are capable of devaluing currency. A Bitcoin itself is essentially a line of computer code. It's signed digitally when it goes from one owner to another. There are sustainability concerns around the cryptocurrency, which stem from the process of "mining" that is central to its existence.

The "miners" use computers to make complex calculations that verify transactions in Bitcoin. This uses a tremendous amount of energy via computers and server farms all over the world, which has given rise to concerns about the amount of fossil fuel-dependent electricity used to power the computers. 

RACE CARD

5pm: Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 1,400m
5.30pm: Handicap (TB) Dh70,000 1,000m
6pm: Maiden (PA) Dh70,000 2,000m
6.30pm: Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 2,000m
7pm: Maiden (PA) Dh70,000 1,600m
7.30pm: Al Ain Mile Group 3 (PA) Dh350,000 1,600m
8pm: Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 1,600m
 
Amith's selections:
5pm: AF Sail
5.30pm: Dahawi
6pm: Taajer
6.30pm: Pharitz Oubai
7pm: Winked
7.30pm: Shahm
8pm: Raniah