Dark clouds on the horizon for electric vehicles – OpEd

There are some dark clouds hanging over the optimistic growth of electric vehicles (EVs) that could decimate the lithium supply chain to make EV batteries, and how to safely transport EVs across vast oceans.

1. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) should classify lithium carbonate, chloride and hydroxide as hazardous to human health. The decision is expected to be made early next year.

2. The recent sinking (March 2022) of a freighter with 4,000 vehicles, due to a fire where electric vehicle batteries were part of the reason, may impose an insurmountable insurance problem to bring these vehicles manufactured to stranger in america

The first dark cloud is the lithium supply chain to build electric vehicle batteries:

Lithium’s central role in electric vehicles makes it an important product for meeting global carbon reduction targets, and it has been added to the EU’s list of critical raw materials in 2020. However, the European Commission is currently evaluating a proposal from the European Chemicals Agency. (ECHA) to classify lithium carbonate, chloride and hydroxide as hazardous to human health.

The EU proposal does not ban imports of lithium from developing countries where the same lithium carbonate, chloride and hydroxide are currently NOT classified as hazardous to human health. But if legislated, it will increase costs for processors due to stricter rules controlling processing, packaging and storage. The decision is expected to be made early next year

The addition of lithium salts to the list of hazardous materials for health may lead to the revision of a series of projects in the industry. Stricter rules mean higher costs, so any proposed lithium ore processing plant should be given second thought for its environmental impact and feasibility.

If lithium carbonate, lithium chloride and lithium hydroxide are classified as hazardous, it would complicate the import procedure, production and material handling.

Germany’s top lithium producer, Albemarle Corp (ALB.N), may have to close its Langelsheim plant in Germany if the metal used in electric vehicle batteries is declared a hazardous material by the European Union.

Like the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the European Union has been tightening its environmental and climate rules for decades. The Brussels administration wants to make the entire continent carbon neutral by the middle of the century. At the same time, it strives to achieve the highest level of pollution protection in the world.

Initiatives to open mines and mineral processing plants such as those in Serbia and Portugal have caused public outcry as environmentalists and locals fear the impact on nature and the livelihoods of local people. people. In other projects, engineers are trying to make the extraction of lithium from geothermal waters profitable and harmless, without any mining. Currently, Portugal has canceled a lithium project amid the EU rush for battery materials.

The second dark cloud is the insurability of future freighters to bring electric vehicles to America:

Amid tighter global emissions regulations, established automakers are racing to add more electric vehicles to their lineup. A Reuters analysis found that global automakers such as Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Fiat, Volkswagen, GM, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Daimler and Chrysler plan to spend a combined US$300 billion on electric vehicles over the next next decade as automakers bet big on EV. Most electric vehicles will be manufactured in foreign countries far removed from US ports.

China has gone from zero production in 1950 to 2019 where it now produces more cars than the United States, Japan and India combined. The 6-minute video from the ‘needle’ of auto manufacturing shows how the dominance of foreign manufacturing occurred during this 69-year period.

Automobiles manufactured per year 1950/2019:

  • China None / 28 million
  • US 8 million / 11 million
  • Japan 31,000 / 9.8 million
  • India 15,000 / 5 million
  • Germany 300 thousand / 5 million
  • South Korea None / 4 million

Bringing these foreign-built cars to America can be an insurmountable insurance problem. The Felicity Ace, a 650ft long freighter carrying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of luxury cars sank in March 2022. The salvage team working on the burning ship said the electric vehicle batteries were partly why it was still on fire after several days. The estimated market value of the Felicity Ace was $24.5 million, while the total value of the 3,965 vehicles could exceed $500 million.

With potential electric vehicle battery fires, who is going to take responsibility for ensuring their safe passage from foreign manufacturers to U.S. ports, freighters, or manufacturers?

On the bright side, there are sodium-ion batteries which are the main contender for the EV throne.

The first generation of sodium-ion batteries from Chinese giant CATL will enter the market in 2023. If the company catches up with energy density, the new technology could become more competitive than lithium-based solutions.

Sodium-ion technology provides better integration efficiency, better low temperature performance and better charging speed. Experts have noted that sodium-ion batteries can only be recharged 1,500 times, compared to two to four times in the case of lithium variants. Thus, the longevity of sodium-ion batteries still requires development work.

Lithium-ion batteries dominate the global energy storage market, including electric vehicles. However, the sector’s rapid expansion is fueling price growth and drastic shortages are possible as early as next year. Additionally, quality lithium ore is scarce, and producers around the world have come under fire for high water consumption in the process and other environmental impacts. Currently, sodium-ion batteries are the main contender for the throne.

Until something like an alternative sodium-ion battery comes along to replace lithium-ion batteries, to meet the expected growth in the population of electric vehicles, the industry will watch the dark clouds hanging over the industry. for a reliable lithium supply chain for electric vehicles, as well as methods for transporting these electric vehicles safely and cost-effectively to America.

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