Fears over supply chain ethics in switch to EVs

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
19 May 2021

MPs have expressed concern over environmental and social standards in supply chains as the UK moves towards electric vehicles (EVs).

In a report the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said environmental impacts and costs revolved around materials used to make EVs, the stability of associated supply chains, carbon impact from where a car was manufactured, and end-of-life recycling.

The PAC said the Departments for Transport (DfT) and for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) should “set out their approach to encouraging car manufacturers to maintain proper environmental and social standards throughout their supply and recycling chains as zero-emission car volumes grow”.

This should include publishing information on lifecycle emissions and relevant reporting standards for manufacturers on environmental and social stewardship.

The report said the DfT acknowledged the issues and manufacturers were working in this area, with Tesla and Renault “looking at developing batteries and electric motors which do not use rare earth metals”.

The DfT told MPs that “it is not within manufacturers business interests to be sourcing products from volatile areas with supply chains that are unreliable, or to be encouraging poor working practices”.

“The department [DfT] tells us that manufacturers are focusing on the environmental and social consequences of making electric cars,” said the report.

“As the number of electric cars being produced increases, pressures on the supply of rare materials may increase, and we are concerned that environmental standards could slip.”

The report said work by the DfT found lifecycle emissions of EVs were about 30-40% lower than cars with internal combustion engines.

“The departments [DfT and BEIS] have not yet demonstrated how they are going to encourage industry to maintain proper environmental and social standards throughout their supply and recycling chains as the zero-emission car market grows,” said MPs.

The report said 11% of new car registrations were for ultra-low emission vehicles in 2020 and it would be a “huge challenge” to reach 100% by 2035, the target date for all new cars to be zero-emission.

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