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The EV Revolution: Solution or Threat?

By Fernando Enciso Pérez Rubio - Grupo Surman
Director México


By Fernando Enciso Pérez Rubio | Director Mexico - Thu, 08/10/2023 - 13:00

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In this “new era,” regarding the future of vehicles and mobility, there are still many doubts around electric vehicles (EVs): Are they really the future or are they only a temporary fad or trend?

There are several facts we need to consider and analyze to really understand if an EV is the right choice.

The reality around us is shouting that we need to react quickly to address environmental care and avoid further harming our planet. But areEVsl the best solution or the right way to go? 

EVs will certainly help the environment in the near term because of their impact on reducing toxic gas emissions over the coming years as internal combustion vehicle (ICE) sales decline and EV sales increase. Less fuel derived from oil will be required and wasted, which will  help, as well.

Currently, there are more than 5 million electric cars in circulation in China, making it the nation with the most electric cars. With about 1.77 million cars, the US comes second, followed by Germany with 570,000 cars. In Mexico, just 5,600 electric vehicles were sold last year, much less than the 8,400 sold in Latin America's biggest car market, Brazil. Can  you imagine what new incremental requirements will emerge in the near future as other countries like Mexico evolve and change their mobility to this technology?

For example, the most common elements in electric vehicle batteries are lithium-ion, nickel manganese cobalt, nickel metal hydride, lithium sulfur, and lead-acid. There are great concerns about the continuous supply of these raw materials to manufacture EV batteries. As the years pass, more EVs will be in use, and more EV vehicles will start aging and requiring new batteries. Considering the resources available on the planet and our ability to cost-effectively extract them with the available technology, can we be sure that supply will meet worldwide demand in the future?

Taking this into consideration, a new trend is emerging to support this increasing use of EVs: Massive Battery Recycling. Developing this industry in our country would keep hazardous materials from entering the waste stream, both at the end of a battery's useful life and during its production, because if not, we will be harming Mexico, and our entire planet, in a different way than gas emissions do. 

The material recovery from recycling would reintroduce critical materials back into the supply chain and would increase the domestic sources for such materials, reducing the detrimental impact on the planet. Work is now underway to develop battery-recycling processes that minimize the life-cycle impacts of using batteries in vehicles. Are these new processes that are being developed cost effective for that industry to grow in Mexico? How many batteries will need to be recycled on a regular basis to make the investment feasible in Mexico? How many vehicles will need to be sold in our country to reach this ratio? Are we developing the surrounding elements required to reach these sales?

On the other hand, we need to ensure enough electricity supply and electric charging stations for the constantly increasing number of electric (and hybrid) plug-in vehicles that are, and will be, in use in the coming years. The International Energy Agency reports that lack of charging infrastructure is the top barrier to EV adoption. The industry in most of the more evolved countries is responding and the rollout of the hardware is accelerating. Is Mexico evolving simultaneously?

Our country needs more charging stations to make EVs practical. China is the global leader in a number of publicly available chargers. It produces about 85% of the world’s fast chargers and 55% of slow chargers. Mexico has about 1,100 charging stations nationwide, mostly in the capital and other major cities. In comparison, New York City has around 9,000.

There are already new charging station companies in Mexico supporting the current EV requirements, and more will come as new Chinese brands and products arrive in our country, but is the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) ready to support the growing energy demand? Investors will come but they need to be sure that enough energy will be provided to make their investment  feasible. Is the solar cells industry developing at the same speed to turn more homes into energy producers to help our government comply with that supply demand? Are all new EV users ready to invest additionally in new cells for their homes?

ICE, hybrid and electric vehicles will exist together for the next several years. The proportion will change depending on the speed at which the requirements around them are developed. We should surely address all the different new aspects we need to take care of so as not to accelerate the damage to Earth. If we are moving into these new technologies, we need to also increase our environmental consciousness to protect  our planet against the new threats this will entail.

Photo by:   Fernando Enciso Pérez Rubio

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