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What is a battery powered world going to look like?

Hats off to all those who are making batteries work for us! Epiroc, for one, have launched their second generation of battery-powered mining machinery in recent months, so how long before the cutting edge of global mining is totally remote-controlled and battery-powered?

With all the fantastic developments in battery technology, it’s interesting that the diesel engine isn’t going away quickly. Engineers are continuing their development of the combustion engine, which is set to be a reliable power unit for some time to come. With regulations tightening up on emissions, Stage 5 standards coming into force over coming months for NRMM (non-road mobile machinery), the big crack-down continues on particulates and NOx, which is rightly putting pressure on society as a whole to comply.

Whilst battery power is looking to be number one in the powerplant market, what we don’t see lying behind these ‘new-era’ vehicles and the rampant development of the plug-in infrastructure, is highly charged political and ethical issues surrounding the feeding of this ravenous battery revolution.

At one end of the process, extraction of the necessary raw materials with its high human and environmental toll; at the other end, inappropriate recycling posing health threats to millions. The global battery market is expecting to top $100 billion by 2025, growth of more than 40% on today’s spend. At the same time, we are battling a recycling challenge as a forecast approaching ten million tons of batteries will have been discarded.

So, what is the breadth of our long-range view? What is the scope for sustainability? What is the thought process behind our succession planning and the legacy we are accumulating? Is the future already looking back at the heroic efforts of busy fools?

If the ideology of our battery powered world simply passes the buck when it comes to addressing the real costs of achieving it, there are always those prepared to rise up physically and vocally in protest but who is actually prepared to put up their hand and say, the buck stops here? Who, if anyone, has got the resource to address it? If the answer really is no-one, then isn’t it time to re-focus our ideals within the true context of our obligations and responsibilities?

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