I read an interesting article about the electrification of Europe namely how the big manufacturing groups are retooling their factories to produce more electric vehicles.
Firstly, there was an announcement by Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), a major battery supplier in China, who are building a factory near Erfurt in Germany to satisfy orders from companies such as BMW. Erfurt is part way between Frankfurt and Leipzig and in the middle of the automotive centres of the unified country. BMW has committed to buying $4.7B worth of batteries for its new models.
The European manufacturing groups have to dramatically increase their output of electric cars over the next few years otherwise the Chinese manufacturers will out perform them. BMW have four factories in Germany that will need batteries delivered to production lines as more electric models are built as the diesel ones are being phased out. That doesn’t count the factories that build Mini or Rolls-Royce vehicles.
The VW Group has fourteen factories in Europe and the Renault-Nissan partnership has another ten. Daimler has a further eight plants with the PSA Group another five. That’s over forty manufacturing plants with the big industry players and there are at least another ten plants for smaller manufacturers, component manufacturers or contract builders who will also require batteries for their production lines.
The big concern then, is the availability of the raw materials that go into making all those batteries. Today, Lithium-ion is the preferred choice, however good quality lithium is available in far less quantities than oil. If over fifty factories start to demand supplies, then the demand for lithium will increase. The US Geological Survey estimates that there are 12 billion kgs of lithium buried across the globe, so with an estimated 65kg per vehicle, that means 190 million vehicles until the world is empty!
Combine that demand with China, Japan and the US, and it won’t take too long to exhaust the reserves of lithium available. Australia has already opened a recycling plant to get lithium out of old batteries because engineers are already concerned about the volume being used! The bigger concern might be with Cobalt and Nickel, two other metals that are required for electric vehicles and are also in finite supplies. Perhaps Ultracaps really are the future of power storage.