18 Oct 2022

The European Union’s ambitious green and digital industrial transition hinges upon its capacity to access and diversify supply of critical raw materials. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union of speech of September announced a new EU Critical Raw Materials Act to prepare for a world in which "lithium and rare earths will soon be more important than oil and gas.”

The ball is now rolling for the European Commission, with the first consultation of key policy and industrial stakeholders underway to draw up a Critical Raw Materials Act. Cycling Industries Europe aims to provide input and underline how bicycle manufacturing supply chains can become more resilient, diversified and sustainable. Industry experts will be consulted, among other things, to forecast future raw material bottlenecks and shortages and identify means to boost circularity.

Critical Raw Materials has been a topic on the European Commission’s radar since 2008 and an action plan was set out in the 2020 Communication on Critical Raw Materials. The current geopolitical situation, alongside research forecasts showing potential fivefold increases in cobalt use or more than tenfold increases for lithium by 2030, have pressed the Commission to develop a broader strategy aiming to dampen the EU’s dependency on global trade.

The EU Critical Raw Materials Act can be expected to lead to future legislation covering the many facets of existing supply chain concerns and solutions:

  • Increasing and diversifying the supply of critical raw materials to Europe
  • Catering for increasing demand and pre-empting shortages
  • Increasing domestic supply capability in Europe
  • Boosting circularity and research
  • Preventing uncoordinated EU Member State action

For the time being, the European Commission has only hinted at some of the measures it could consider setting up to support more diversified, predictable, resilient and circular raw material supply chains for European industries. These include setting criteria to identify strategic raw materials, providing funding and supporting investment to diversify supply, enhancing the coordination of strategic reserves among EU Member States and introducing mandatory recycling requirements on key materials such as rare earth permanent magnets or carbon footprint reporting.

The cycling industry’s involvement in fine-tuning this key policy will be essential to secure supply to make bicycles, with particular focus on e-bikes and batteries. It also represents an opportune moment to identify key supplies of critical raw materials to support the re-shoring of bicycle component production.

Beyond the clear concerns regarding access to lithium and cobalt to make e-bike batteries, CIE will underline that bicycle manufacturing requires a diverse array of raw materials but is also much less resource-intensive than other mobility sectors - batteries for electric cars, for example, require as much as 250 times more raw materials for a single battery as an e-bike. CIE will also highlight the importance of access to processed materials like aluminium and steel – which are abundant today but where future bottlenecks may arise amidst competition for access with heavier sectors.   

CIE will work closely with its expert groups to shape the industry’s response and build on existing initiatives assessing past supply chain shortages, creating ambitious CSR strategies and developing circularity and recycling opportunities.   

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