Liu, Wenjuan, Datu Buyung Agusdinata, Hallie Eakin, & Hugo Romero (2022, March). Sustainable minerals extraction for electric vehicles: A pilot study of consumers’ perceptions of impacts. Resources Policy, 75(12), art. 102523. (Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resourpol.2021.102523)

Abstract: Global transitions to electric vehicles (EVs) have triggered a surge in demand for the required minerals, whose extraction impacts raise questions on the overall sustainability of EVs. The impacts of mineral extraction are usually invisible to consumers who are at the relative end of EV-minerals’ life cycle, posing a challenge for the governance of minerals. Due to their increasingly important role in motivating corporate response, understanding consumers’ perceptions is crucial to inform efforts towards sustainable mineral extraction (SME), which encompasses the actions, policies, and practices to minimize environmental and social impacts of minerals extractions. In this study, we applied the telecoupling framework and combined a survey and Q-method to examine how EV consumers perceive the life-cycle developments of EV, impacts of minerals extraction, and potential governance schemes. Our analysis identified and discussed the nuanced categories of perceptions and their implications. Overall, there is a general lack of awareness of impacts among respondents, but most respondents recognized the complexity in the supply chain of EVs and the role of consumers in influencing its governance. Contradictory opinions are widely found, reflecting the tensions and conflicts between the imperative of energy transitions and the reality of adverse mining impacts. Improved SME governance should consider the differences in consumers’ purchase motivations when mobilizing for changes, and not detract from the positive roles of EVs. We also highlight the need for a telecoupling view in mineral governance and suggest a shift in the EV supply chain to include broader sustainable development goals and a global community of consumers, affected communities, and the general public.

Datu B Agusdinata <bagusdin@asu.edu> is in the School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA.

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