The road towards clean mobility

Published: 10 Nov 2021
Author: Ilham Kadri
Type: Insight

COP26 is finally here and with IPCC’s recent ‘code red’ warning, the stakes could not be higher.

If we’re going to avoid this scenario for the climate we know we must make urgent changes to the transport and the energy sectors and, thanks to chemistry, this is possible.

Chemistry is key to creating Lithium-Ion batteries for electric vehicles and hybrids. The industry is developing new solutions and technologies at record speed, enabling batteries with higher energy density — and therefore longer range — and faster charging. Our newly developed materials are key to supporting the surge of solid state batteries, which hold the promise of further improving safety, increasing performances and lower total cost of ownership when compared to today’s Li-Ion batteries.

Building the battery is one thing, but chemistry also enables us to recycle it. I’m very proud of our partnership with Veolia and Renault to enable the production of circular electric vehicle batteries. Through this collaboration, we are regenerating lithium, cobalt, nickel at such a high quality that they can be used again in new batteries.

This is especially critical because by 2030, the global passenger electrical vehicles fleet is expected to reach around 170 million. Several car manufacturers have committed to sell only electric vehicles within the next 10 to 15 years. With this growth rate, when you look at the rare earths that will be needed to create these batteries, there are concerns about whether the industry can scale up fast enough and the environmental impact of mining. A circular solution addresses both of those concerns as it reduces the need for new materials — and the carbon footprint associated with battery metal recycling is far lower than the carbon footprint associated with primary metal extraction or mining. In other words, it provides the key to unleashing the full potential of the EV industry!

Chemistry also provides the solution to reduce the weight of any transportation vehicle, be it your car, your e-bike or the airplane you take to your favorite vacation destination. It enables us to replace metal, making objects lighter and more energy and fuel-efficient, therefore emitting less CO2. It can also provide more sustainable tires. For instance, our silica products reduce rolling resistance of tires by up to 25%, reducing fuel consumption.

Finally, to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 we need a solid, strong green hydrogen economy. Chemistry is at the heart of electrolyzers and fuel cells systems for green hydrogen, and plays a key role in their efficiency and durability.

I have often said that the chemical industry is part of the problem, but I also believe – more than ever — we are part of the solution. Chemistry is the mother of all industries: without it there would be no sustainability, no circular economy, and no clean mobility.

As a science company, we know that what brought us here will not take us where we need to be. We must continue to reinvent progress if we want to hand over a better world to our children — and chemistry will play a vital role in making it happen!

Ilham Kadri, CEO of Solvay and upcoming WBCSD Chair

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