Electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries in lower- and middle-income countries
The largest economies in the world are rapidly transitioning new vehicle sales away from gasoline and diesel internal combustion engine vehicles to battery-powered electric vehicles. This transition is material intensive, requiring the rapid development of new supply chains to build the lithium ion batteries that power electric vehicles. These batteries are built on extractive industries located all over the world, including many in lower and middle income countries that are themselves not electrifying, and thus not enjoying the benefits of reduced air pollution and greenhouse gases. In fact, many lower income countries rely heavily on second-hand vehicle imports from wealthier countries, including those that are rapidly electrifying their fleets. Projections of electric vehicle sales in these markets suggest that second-hand electric vehicle export flows could exceed 2 million by 2035, up from just 30,000-75,000 in 2022. The life cycle of an electric vehicles differs not just in the materials required for production, but also throughout its life cycle, including during vehicle use and end-of-life. These differences could mean that second-hand electric vehicles rapidly become a burden in markets without the capacity and infrastructure to repair and recycle electric vehicles and the batteries that power them. This report explores the future stocks, flows, and life cycles of electric vehicles to understand the implications for lower and middle income countries and provides a set of strategies for how some of the problems presented by the transition to electric vehicles might be mitigated.