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UNECE explores the potential of platforms in spurring the circular economy transition in the EV battery sector

UNECE explores the potential of platforms in spurring the circular economy transition in the EV battery sector

Charging an electric car

The transition to a circular economy is pivotal for achieving sustainability goals, especially within the clean tech sector. Platforms can play a crucial role in facilitating this transition by connecting stakeholders, streamlining resource flows, and enabling efficient material reuse through the creation and scale-up of marketplaces. For example, in the Electrical Vehicle (EV) battery sector, a linchpin in the clean tech revolution, circular platforms can optimize batteries’ lifecycles by promoting more sustainable design, reuse, including through second-life applications, remanufacturing, and recycling.

To explore these dynamics, and the potential opportunities and challenges that circular platforms present for the circular economy transition, the UN-ECE Transformative Innovation Network (ETIN) hosted a panel session on this topic at the recent Innovation Zero Conference in London. Under the title of “the potential of platforms in spurring the circular economy transition in the EV battery sector”, the panel brought together insights from the private sector, a circular platform operating in the EV battery sector, and the research sector, looking at the policy developments in this area.

Discussions showed a growing need to ensure sustainability in the EV battery sector, with EV production expected to grow significantly in the coming years. According to the International Energy Agency (2023), the total number of EVs in circulation reached 40 million in 2023. The number of new EVs sold increased by 3.5 million from 2022 and was more than six times higher than in 2018. With production projected to grow even further in the next years, EV manufacturers are now facing the challenge of keeping up with the expected demand for EV batteries. Given also existing resource constraints for critical raw materials such as Cobalt and Lithium, needed for EV battery production, it becomes imperative to find new ways to meet this demand, as well as ensure the efficient and sustainable sourcing and use of resources and materials, also outlined in more recent policies, such as the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States and the EU Green Deal in Europe.

Circular platforms present an interesting opportunity to address these challenges. They can connect battery manufacturers, recyclers, and end-users, ensuring efficient material recovery and minimizing waste. By using a platform to adopt circular practices, such as recycling and reusing batteries, the sector can reduce waste, decrease reliance on raw material extraction, and minimize the ecological footprint of EVs. However, it will be vital to ensure that policy frameworks incentivize such circular business models and encourage collaboration across the value chain.

In addition to the panel session, ETIN also hosted a workshop for Innovation Zero participants on the topic of strategic learning for transformative innovation on 1 May as an official side-event of Innovation Zero. Strategic learning is a tool for exploration and decision making in long-term transformation processes characterized by uncertainty and complexity. Using concrete cases, workshop participants from the public and private sector discussed new and emergent needs and policies for learning to guide our efforts towards sustainability transformations, given the increased uncertainty and complexity that today’s challenges pose.  

The above topics are examples of the many discussions ongoing under ETIN around challenges and opportunities in facilitating innovation for sustainable transformations.


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