Electric vehicle (EV) production is demanding high numbers of lithium-ion batteries, which are already in short supply. However, this demand will mean that innovative transport projects such as flying taxis and the hyperloop concept will be right at the back of a 'lithium battery queue' and will, therefore, not see the light of day by 2030, according to leading data and analytics company GlobalData.
Lithium-ion mining plans 'too little too late' for flying taxis
GlobalData's latest Thematic Research report, 'Tech in 2030 - Thematic Research', reveals that over 27.5 million battery electric vehicles (EVs) will be produced by the end of the 2020s, each needing several lithium-ion cells. While governments are successfully addressing lithium-ion shortages-battery cell production capacity is expected to grow by nearly five times to 5.8 TWh in 2030-this effort will be too little too late for even the least ambitious EV plans, let alone other electric transport ideas.
Emilio Campa, Analyst in the Thematic Intelligence team at GlobalData, comments: "Not only will high demand on lithium-ion drive up EV prices, but it will mean new, innovative technologies that also rely on these batteries will be at the back of the queue. Comparing anticipated EV demand with production capacity of batteries leaves a shortfall of over 2,400 kilotons of battery-grade lithium. This just isn't good enough. Work should have started on subsidizing critical metal mining several years ago. If there aren't enough batteries for EVs, there definitely won't be any for projects like flying taxis."
Slow EV charging station rollout a telling sign for hyperloop infrastructure
Another innovative transport project that might be at risk is the hyperloop concept, a system of passenger pods that move inside pressurized tubes using electric propulsion and magnetic levitation. Not only will the hyperloop require lithium-ion batteries, but it would also require a substantial infrastructure investment. Judging by the rate at which electric charge points for EVs are being rolled out, this would be a considerable undertaking.
Campa adds: "Building public infrastructure for new transport is often a key focus of specific government policies, however, as we have seen with the slow rollout of EV charging stations, investment and speed is still lacking. Current investment in public charging is falling massively behind anticipated requirements. If public electric charge points are not made easily accessible by 2030, then the increased investment in EV technology will not pay off.
"There has been a lot of hype around revolutionary transport technologies being implemented by 2030, however, many of these will rely on entirely new infrastructure. Hyperloop, for example, cannot run on standard rail networks and the costs of maintaining a hyperloop tube and keeping it free of air are unknown. If EV infrastructure still hasn't been built, governments will be unable to justify the astronomical amounts of taxpayer money needed for these new systems."
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