National Targets - Combustion Out/Electric In
As of 2030, the UK government, and the EU are pushing to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars. In addition, the US federal government has suggested it will do the same by 2035, with at least nine states having planned to make the move already. Fully electric vehicles, as well as hybrid cars are going to be required to fill the gap, and quickly at that, as petrol and diesel cars still constitute almost 50% of all sales in the EU (as of June 2023 sales figures).
However, progress is being made, as battery electric vehicles sales increased in the proportion of total car sales from 10.7% in June 2022, to 15.1% in June 2023 within the EU market. In addition, this marked the first time that battery vehicles had overtaken the sale of diesel vehicles in a given period, as diesel accounted for 13.4% of total EU car sales.
In comparison, the UK fully electric car sales were marginally higher at 17.9% of total sales in June 2023. If you included all types of electric vehicles (hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid) then the proportion increases to 56.8% of total sales. Although, there are other nations that are substantially ahead of both the UK and the EU. Norway EV sales for instance, constitute over 90% of its overall new car sales market as of June 2023.
Minerals and Supply Chains
While this is promising, this also comes with the continued expansion of the electric vehicle supply chain, and in turn the necessity for the mining sector to continue to expand. The supply chain for electric vehicles is complex to say the least, requiring the extraction and processing of lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, and graphite to name but a few. The mines, which are predominately located within Africa, are increasingly under scrutiny for human rights related abuses, as well as the potential use of child labour.
At Ethical Screening, our detailed research examines supply chain issues as they apply to all companies, for example, does the company have a supply chain policy, as well as a specific methodology to the sector we are analysing.
In relation to the automobile manufacturing sector this is done through a number of specific key performance indicators such as:
- Supplier Code of Conduct or Policy specific to the main risk from company activity: examples include conflict minerals sourcing, and mica sourcing for metallic paint.
- Membership of a relevant organisation, industry initiative or certification to standard: examples include the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG); EICC GeSI Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI); National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Conflict Minerals Implementation Task Force; Global Battery Alliance.
- Mapping of the supply chain for key resources: as above this may include conflict minerals and/or mica.
- Does the company conduct an independent assessment of suppliers, via auditing of labour standards in supply chain; are audit results publicly reported
Secondly, Ethical Screening specifically scores how company procedures address the use of conflict minerals (currently defined as Tin, Tantalum, Tungsten and Gold) within a company's supply chain. As other precious metals such cobalt and lithium become increasingly exported from countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), investors need to ensure companies using these minerals are examined, to ensure their sourcing is not from a mine using exploitative labour.
Supporting a more sustainable and electric future, needs to be assessed within the framework of internationally recognised standards relating to both human and labour rights. Amnesty International launched a campaign in 2019 at the Nordic Electric Vehicle Summit in Oslo, by spreading awareness of how lithium-ion batteries were potentially linked to human rights abuses including child labour. As of 2022, the EU implemented legislation to ensure battery producers wishing to sell products in the EU market were required to publicise risks associated to people, as well as the environment.
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has a framework for the use of conflict minerals in its required filings for all companies which use such minerals. However, as Chinese companies have direct ownership of 15 of the 19 primary industrial copper-cobalt mining concessions with the DRC; and increasingly China has become a substantial player in the export of all forms of EVs, the US legislation will have limited effect globally. From January to June 2023, EV exports from China more than doubled on the previous year, and now accounted for 25% of the country's total automobile exports.
Frameworks that have been adopted by both the EU, and the USA will need to account for Chinese manufacturers that do not utilise an equivalent set of standards from mining to manufacturing. As the demand for electric vehicles continues to increase and the Chinese export market continues to expand, and fill the gap of EU and US manufacturers, many such cars flooding EU and US domestic markets will be manufactured through a problematic supply chain.
Indeed, such frameworks already fall short with the changing landscape of what is defined as a conflict mineral. Amnesty International recognised the need to include cobalt in 2016, citing concerns relating to both human rights and the use of child labour in the mining of the resource in Africa.
The drive towards electric vehicles is seen as a major step in reducing emissions from transportation, (certainly local emissions), and therefore viewed as a very positive investable theme, for example when using the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, there are clearly issues with the sourcing of key minerals used in these vehicles - these are being examined by investors, but will increasingly come to the fore as the demand for the minerals increases. Current procedures relating to the sourcing and use of conflict minerals, and other rare earth metals, need to be expanded upon, as well as enforced via more global frameworks.