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Limits to graphite supply in a transition to a post-fossil society

Barre, Francis; Billy, Romain Guillaume; Aguilar Lopez, Fernando; Mueller, Daniel Beat


Tidsskrift: Resources, Conservation and Recycling, vol. 208, 107709, 2024

Doi: doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2024.107709

Transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) powered by lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) aims at reducing emissions in the transportation sector, thereby decreasing fuel oil use and crude oil extraction. Yet, synthetic graphite, a crucial anode material for LIBs, is produced from needle coke, a byproduct of oil refining. This dependency could lead to bottlenecks in battery anode production. We found no obvious supply constraints for synthetic graphite in slow electrification scenarios based on different International Energy Agency scenarios. In contrast, net zero scenarios reveal drastic limitations in synthetic graphite supply, due to fast electrification and declining needle coke production. Natural graphite can mitigate supply limitations but faces environmental concerns, long development time and geopolitical concerns. Securing graphite supply while reaching the net zero goals requires comprehensive strategies combining (1) systematic graphite recycling, (2) overcoming current technical challenges, and (3) behavioral shifts towards reduced vehicle ownership and smaller vehicles.