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Many countries and automakers have ambitious plans to transition to electric cars, trucks, and buses within 10 to 20 years.

“Demand for batteries is growing at an incredible rate,” says Andrew Miller, chief operating officer at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

The company analyzes the supply chain for the lithium-ion batteries used in most electric vehicles.

Battery production starts with mining lithium, cobalt, and nickel, which can be costly and environmentally destructive.

And Miller says the markets for these raw materials remain relatively small, so they’ll need tremendous scaling up to keep pace with demand.

“So that requires a huge amount of investment,” he says. “It requires the development of new technologies to extract these raw materials.”

And it takes time. He says developing new mining operations can take five to 10 years.

“And that’s going to cause some real bottleneck issues and turbulence in these markets over the next few years,” Miller says.

After mining, materials need processing before they can be used in batteries. Miller says most of the raw material processing facilities are in China. That puts other countries at risk of supply chain disruptions.

So to meet targets for rolling out electric vehicles, he says countries around the world must invest in all stages of the electric vehicle battery supply chain.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media