A dangerous game by European manufacturers that could spoil the transition to electric cars

According to a study by Transport & Environment, European automakers are not sufficiently securing the supply of metals for the batteries of electric models. The organization provides advice on how to improve a situation that could derail the entire sector’s transition to electric mobility.

The second largest market in the world

By renewing its rankings for 2021, Transport & Environment wanted to verify “ to what extent European car manufacturers are ready for the transformation of the electric vehicle value chain “. After China, the old continent is the second largest connected market with a very ambitious policy to do without heat engines. This is a real challenge for manufacturers.

Sometimes they engage in a real battle to secure access to strategic materials and lithium-ion cells, heavily concentrated in Asia, against a background of strong geopolitical tensions. Often by showing a partnership, which can lead us to mistakenly believe that some are further along than others.

For its study, the organization selected groups of manufacturers operating in the European market that have production units for their electric vehicles in Europe. This is why we find BYD, Tesla, Toyota and Hyundai-Kia, alongside Renault, Stellantis, Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover.

The presence of those from other continents, especially Tesla and BYD, who are currently fighting for the lead in selling their electric cars on a global scale, also makes it possible to compare strategies.

16% safety on average

The average rate for ensuring the supply of the three critical materials is very low, only 16%. ” This is a very low number compared to what would be expected for long-term contracts », comments Transport & Environment.

By 2030, twelve automotive groups would supply only 14% of lithium demand, 17% of nickel demand and 10% of cobalt demand. Which represents less than a fifth of what they need to achieve their goals by this deadline. .

The organization emphasizes that only BYD and Tesla are dynamic enough on this topic. Among European concerns, Volkswagen and Stellantis are the best. All four plus Ford and Renault signed long-term contracts to secure supplies of critical materials, sometimes by modifying battery chemistry to end dependence on cobalt and/or nickel, modeled after Tesla and BYD.

With only one contract published, Mercedes appears to be lagging behind. As well as BMW, which “has not disclosed sufficient information on how the group plans to acquire” the materials. At Stellantis and Renault, the development of electric vehicles with compact batteries limits the needs.

European ecosystem

Looking for a partnership for recycling used packaging is also a way to ensure the availability of key materials. They are most often played on European territory.

Transport & Environment also sought to identify the groups that are actually playing their cards transfer of battery production. They support four – Mercedes, Renault, Stellantis and VW. currently emerging European startups in the fields of battery components and materials processing “.

More specifically, the organization does not include Losange in its top 3 groups” most involved in the battery supply chain in the EU “. In contrast, international competitors such as Tesla, Toyota, Ford and Hyundai-Kia. they do not support the industrial ecosystem » European.

These presences and absences form a resilience score that plays a role both for the sustainability of producers and for Europe’s strategic autonomy. Volkswagen stands out with 22.5 points, followed by Stellantis (19), Mercedes (17.5) and Renault (15).

Generally speaking, Transport & Environment ensures that thanks to “ their size, resources and skills in managing large projects “, THE ” Automakers can help Europe’s nascent mining industry grow efficiently “.

Responsible sourcing

One point very clearly distinguishes the two good students highlighted in the study for their excellent level of access to strategic materials, and that is responsible and carbon-free sourcing as much as possible. This is likely to reduce the ecological footprint of batteries, the vehicles that transport them and the groups that make them.

BYD is simply completely missing from the rankings in this game. While Tesla is doing well (9 points) and places it at the head of the plant in the battery supply chain by mixing different numbers. However, the three German groups BMW (12 points), Mercedes-Benz (11) and Volkswagen (11) stand out in the ecological assessment.

With 2 and 3 points respectively, Hyundai-Kia and Toyota were placed at the bottom, behind the other ongoing groups, which for the most part have joined IRMA’s global initiative for responsible mining supply or have requirements on the subject in their codes of conduct. suppliers.

Recommendation

Despite some good results, the European car industry must mobilize to avoid a dangerous loss of market share to established Chinese and American electric vehicle manufacturers. In other world markets in general, but also and especially in the old continent, risk derailing the transition of the entire sector to electric mobility and offer outdated vehicles.

Transport & Environment recommends a lock-in by policymakers to ensure manufacturers stop investing in internal combustion engines and move them into the electric vehicle supply chain with relocation.

At the same time, industrial and tax policies at the European and national level would support a faster expansion of battery and electric vehicle production in Europe. That is, by giving preference to locally produced compact models for purchase assistance.

Automakers in the region should become more involved in battery supply chains by focusing on new chemistries that are more efficient and less demanding on critical materials. It is up to the EU to set new rules for more durable batteries.

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