Friday 30 October 2020

Donald Trumps’ rare earth executive order ‘could clean up the resource footprint of EVs’

Donald Trumps’ rare earth executive order ‘could clean up the resource footprint of EVs’

Donald Trumps' rare earth executive order could clean up the hidden footprint of electric vehicles (EVs).

That's the suggestion from Michael Kraft, Chief Executive Officer of the Coretec Group, which is a company that commercialises technical materials, typically for semiconductor and energy sector applications.

He spoke to future Net Zero about the US Government's signing of a rare earth metals executive order, which requires domestic industries to put together a secure supply chain for the valuable resources in a bid to bolster security of supply - currently, 90% of rare earth metals come from China.

As they are an increasingly vital part of many industries, such as EVs, batteries, defence materials, mobile phones and semiconductors, the US is working on building its own domestic manufacturing to increase independence and attract factories and jobs back to its own soil.

He noted this was likely to not only drive down the prices for EVs and battery technologies by cutting down on the need for shipping but would also increase the sustainability of these products - when asked about the true sustainability of EVs, the CEO pointed out that despite being generally clean when powered by renewables, the processes used to make them are not always sustainable.

He said: "There are some dirty, really old technology methods of mining and processing, because there's a chemistry process in making these rare earths, purifying them from dirt basically, so yes, I think there's a lot of dirty processes in rare earth mining."

The Coretec boss pointed out that many of these older, dirtier technologies are predominantly still being used in China, and said policies such as the US' rare earth metal executive order would incentivise innovation and drive the creation of cleaner processes.

He added: "I think it can change the carbon footprint, the pollution aspect, of this mining of rare earth metals. I'm sure it will be a better process and you can't have innovation without some incentives - I know china has a cheap cost of manufacturing or mining these rare earths, so part of this executive order is that we put in place those incentives for innovation, put incentives to make domestic sourcing of those rare earths so the supply is secure.

"I think it's going to take years, it's not something that's going to happen in 2021 and be all solved a year from now, no, it's going to take years, but you've got to start somewhere and I think this executive order is that start."

Mr Kraft predicted that in just ten years, a typical battery could be 400% more efficient, allowing it to store the same amount of power as currently possible while only using up a quarter of the resources required, significantly decreasing its environmental legacy.

Written by

Bruna Pinhoni

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