Back in January/February 2020 I wrote an extensive groups of Climate Crisis posts on the Greening of Transport: Aviation/Shipping/Railways and three posts on cars -Global Overview, Hydrogen Fuel cars and the Fall and rise of SUVs.
This new post concentrates on Electric Vehicles, battery development Rare Earth Metals and China's domination of all three.
CHINA/RARE EARTH METALS
30th January 2021: China controls 95%of the rare earth metals market, making between 80% and 90% of the batteries for electric vehicles and more than half the magnets in wind turbines and electric motors. The production of rare metals will double every 15 years in order to satisfy demand from non-ferrous magnets and lithium-ion batteries. [The Rare Metals War' by Guillaume Pitron (New Scientist)
20th February 2021: Copper demand from renewables and electric vehicles is expected to grow more than seven times by the 2050s. [Financial Times]
3rd March 2021: Three North American companies are setting up a rare earths supply chain to cut dependence on China for the vital metals used in weapons, electric vehicles and other advanced technologies. New Performance Materials of Canada and Energy Fuels of US have found an efficient way to produce rare metals from radioactive monazite sands, a by-product produced from mining sircon, titanium and other, supplied by US based chemicals group Chermours. Energy Fuels has developed a method of extracting the radioactive element to use in nuclear fuel. Monzanite contains about 50% rare earths and 0.3% natural uranium. It also contains 15 of the 17 of the rare earths. Fighter jets rely heavily on rare earths. A Lockheed Martin aircraft contains 417kg of rare-earth materials and a nuclear submarine more than 4 tonnes. [FT]
24th December 2021: Three of the leading rare-earth companies in China have merged to form the China Rare Earth Group. It will control 70% of China's rare earth output of 17 minerals. [FT]
7th July 2022: China's BYD ("build your dreams") overtakes the world's most popular battery car maker outpacing Tesla - a goal that Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors were aiming to do. BYD delivered 641,000 cars in six months, 300% higher than in 2021 and ahead of Tesla's 564,000.
BYD began as manufacturer of rechargeable batteries and expanded into the car business in 2000. The fact that they make the batteries means they own the crucial supply chain. The company now has around 10 % of global capacity for EV battery production. They also have energy storage divisions and a computer chip unit. Sales are mainly in the domestic market but they have international ambitions. Half the cars they sell are plug-in hybrids which count as "new energy vehicles" [NEVs] as well as pure battery and hydrogen powered models [FT]
1 November 2022: BYD is backed by Warren Buffett and is one of a dozen Chinese brands preparing to storm Europe's markets. One in 20 electric vehicles sold in the region in the first six months of 2002 was a Chinese-owned brand. BYD will begin selling its three models before the end of the year. It is expected that the Chinese share of this market will be one in six cars by the middle of the decade. Nio, a premium brand was launched in Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands with Norway to follow. It claims to have orders for 10,000 vehicles. [FT]
7 December 2022: China battery makers' clout raises fears in European motor industry.
China is turning itself into the battery workshop of the world. Europe is the second biggest market for EVs and it is predicted that China will have 322 gigawatt hours of production capacity there by 2031 than any other country. Some 40 % of the value of the electric vehicle is in its battery. In the new world, says Volkswagen's tech head, the electric vehicle world will be defined clearly by battery costs. South Korea will be second largest with 192GWh followed by France and Sweden. the US is 5th thanks to a Tesla plant in Berlin, 6th is Germany, 7th is Norway and the UK is eighth with 20GWh,
VW is leading European manufacturers with plans for five factories in Europe and one in North America. Meanwhile it has a supply deal with China's CATL, the largest battery maker. Europe is planning to end the sale of combustion engines by 2035.
Rising metal prices hinder car affordability
The price of lithium ion batteries rose for the first time in more than a decade. The car industry has long believed that a $100 per kWH battery pack was the point at which electric cars would be competitive price wise with combustion engine vehicles. However lithium prices have increased 10-fold since the start of 2021, nickel has gone up 75 % and cobalt prices have doubled their 2020 average. Battery prices would have been higher if the Chinese industry had not switched to cheaper lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries These don't use cobalt or nickel but have a shorter range.
Un 2022 there were 603 gigawatt hours of demand for lithium iron batteries, double that of the previous year. Supply chains are struggling to keep up. The world's largest lithium producers have warned about the difficulties of increasing production to cope with rocketing demand. Europe, US and other countries are making efforts to reduce their dependence on China.[FT]
2023 BYD and peers make their marque as Chinese car sector comes of age.
Chinese consumers will buy 8mn to10mn EVs in 2023 up from 6.5mn in 2022 and 3.5mn in 2021. Sales in Europe are projected to be3mn and 2mn in US. China had the largest sales with a 35% year-on-year rise of rapid growth. So 7 out of every10 electric vehicles are now sold in China. The pace of growth means China is on the cusp of hitting 50 % of car sales being EVs by the end of 2025 - the first major economy to do so.
This would be far ahead of Europe, The market share of battery cars is rising slowly. A third of sales in the final months of 2022 were fully electric or plug-in hybrid.
BYD is spearheading a wave of overseas expansion. Exports are forecast to grow six fold to 300,000 units this year. Further plans to build factories in Asia, Europe and |South America.
The US unveiled restrictions to stop US companies selling technology to China. It followed with state support in the US and Europe to counter China's rise. [FT]
30.3.2023: Tesla loses ground in China after price war.
In the first two months BYD sold more than five times the number of units that Tesla did in China.
In 2022 Chinese car makers accounted for 47 % of total passenger sales volume. BYD's vertically integrated structure - from mines to batteries and chips has given it an advantage as the world transitions away from the combustion engine. BYD chair said he expected first quarter sales to jump 80 % year on year. The company reported a 400% surge in net profit for 2022. However sales are generally down as the country emerges from the pandemic. [FT]