Battery electric vehicles (“EVs”) have been touted as one of the best ways to reduce emissions from the transportation sector and help put a stop to the effects of climate change. But while the EVs themselves produce zero emissions at the tailpipe, manufacturing EVs is anything but clean.
For starters, mining the metals used to make EV batteries has a massive toll on the environment, burning plenty of fossil fuels, destroying the environment and producing billions of tons of waste. Now a company operating on the coast of San Diego may have found the answer battery and EV makers have been seeking — a way to develop EV batteries without harming the environment.
Lying at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is a special type of rock that could revolutionize electric vehicle batteries and accelerate the adoption of EVs by significantly reducing production costs. CEO and chairman of the Metals Company Gerard Barron says there could be trillions of these polymetallic nodules, which look like lumpy black rocks, on the ocean floor around 1,100 miles from the San Diego coast. According to estimates from the Vancouver-based company, there are enough nodules for a billion electric cars. Barron and researchers are currently on the Maersk Launcher, docked in the San Diego Bay, and they are looking for the safest ways to bring these rocks to the surface.
The Metals Company has been given exclusive access to the area where the nodules have been found, dubbed the Clarion Clipperton Zone. These rocks contain three metals, and coincidentally, these are some of the metals used to make EV batteries: cobalt, copper and nickel. Mining these metals usually involves some “pretty nasty practices,” Barron says, but harvesting the polymetallic nodules will not need any digging or blasting as they are just lying on top of the ocean floor. However, the company is still concerned about the possible negative effects of harvesting the rocks.
As such, the Maersk Launcher crew is planning its fifth excursion into the Clarion Clipperton Zone to research the best way to harvest the rocks and how this might impact the ocean environment. Andrew Sweetman, a deep-sea ecologist on the crew, says the goal is to find a collection method that has the lightest impact on the ecosystem. The Metals Company plans on using a process that would produce 90% less carbon dioxide and zero waste compared to traditional mining processes, Barron says.
If this research can yield positive outcomes, then people who buy EVs manufactured by sector players such as NIO Inc. (NYSE: NIO) will have a lot more to get from their electric vehicles, especially during power outages.
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