Spurring the Electric Vehicle Battery Industry Sustainability

Farid Wijaya, Analis Senior Bahan dan Energi Terbarukan, Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR)

Jakarta, December 19, 2023 – In recent years, energy transition has become a significant focus in various countries, including Indonesia. President Joko Widodo’s (Jokowi) has been promoting the shift from conventional energy sources to renewable energy. One of the strategic steps emphasized is the development of electric vehicles. This support is realized through various incentives, including tax breaks, to accelerate the growth of the electric vehicle industry and market expansion.

Farid Wijaya, Senior Analyst of Renewable Energy and Materials at the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), explained that the battery is a crucial component in electric vehicles that enables high performance and efficiency. For this reason, nickel plays a critical role in producing electric vehicle batteries. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the shift towards sustainable energy will increase the demand for nickel in the global market, particularly for environmentally friendly vehicles that use electric batteries. By 2040, electric vehicles will account for 58 percent of global vehicles.

“Unfortunately, increased demand for nickel can result in greater reliance on natural resources. Nickel mining and refining processes can cause deforestation, water pollution, and ecosystem damage. Therefore, we must manage it responsibly and ensure it meets environmental impact analysis (AMDAL) and environmental standards. Additionally, we must also consider social justice aspects when managing nickel mining,” said Farid Wijaya at the Forum Group Discussion (FGD) with the title “Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain Electricity: Working Together to Build a Sustainable Supply Chain” organized by Traction Energy Asia on Tuesday (19/12). 

Farid mentioned that the nickel mining and refining industry has many issues related to human rights violations and environmental damage. According to IESR’s analysis, several things need to be considered to optimize nickel downstream through environmentally friendly industrialization. Firstly, the nickel mining and refining governance licensing process needs to be reviewed. License revocation and fines should be applied in cases of administrative, environmental, and social injustice issues.

“Secondly, creating a road map for each industry to decarbonize. Third, the development and implementation of Green Industry Standards (SIH) for nickel mining and refining,” said Farid Wijaya. 

Furthermore, Farid emphasized the improvements needed to optimize nickel downstream through environmentally friendly industrialization, such as using environmentally friendly clean technology, energy conservation, compliance with environmental standards, and analysis of AMDAL. There is also worker security and safety and stakeholder consultation. 

On the other hand, Farid explained that the world would be flooded with large lithium-ion batteries that have reached the end of their life and need to be disposed of as the number of electric vehicles on the road increases globally. Recycling is, therefore, essential to recover most of the battery’s active material. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2040, 10% of demand can be met by recycling used batteries.

“If used lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are disposed of as such and stockpiled in large quantities, it can cause infiltration of toxic heavy metals into underground water, resulting in environmental pollution. Similarly, incinerating used LIBs as solid waste can generate various toxic gases, such as hydrogen fluoride (HF), from the electrolytes in LIBs, which can pollute the atmosphere. Therefore, proper waste treatment of these used batteries is crucial. Recycling is also essential to reduce dependence on imports,” said Farid Wijaya.