Towards a circular and low-carbon economy: insights from the transitioning to electric vehicles and net zero economy

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Road transportation being a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, is now resulting a move away from the traditional internal combustion engine to electric vehicles (EVs), currently powered by battery technology. This paper examines end-of-first-life applications of EVs batteries in a low-carbon circular economy following global transition to EVs and net zero economy. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with key actors within the EV industry in the UK. Drawing on Stahel closed-loop solutions, a qualitative analysis of the transcripts of these interviews revealed the need for business models towards coherent low-carbon circular economy of the value chains. This paper reveals a whole range of issues relating to: extraction of battery critical raw minerals (e.g. ethical concerns); manufacturing (e.g. lack of policy frameworks addressing value chain emissions); distribution and sale (e.g. gaps in circular built economy strategy and transition plan); use (e.g. lack of a functioning market for end-of-first-life batteries) as well as research and innovation (e.g. lack of infrastructure to deal with end-of-first-life cells). The views on policy weaknesses testifies to the need for close-loop business model to not only focus on recycling battery raw minerals or repurposing battery for energy storage applications. But, should consider many aspects of an innovative policy strategy and product’s global value chain, accounting for: equitable jobs, critical raw minerals dependency, circularity governance and industry standards, protecting the natural environment, tackling emissions and ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns. The study highlights establishing key trade-offs within policy goals considering the global value chains, as well as, harnessing synergies between social, economic and environmental goals.

The paper concludes that a low-carbon close-loop business model should integrate the triple objectives of making positive impact on people, planet and profit, and developed on the basis of legislation, collaboration, research, investment, and incentives guiding to achieve the Global Goals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number120659
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date19 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2020


  • business models
  • circular economy
  • electric vehicles
  • lithium-ion batteries
  • low-carbon economy
  • sustainable futures


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