Europes Carmakers Face Raw Material Bottleneck For EV Batteries

By Ilona Wissenbach

FILE PHOTO: Worker connects the battery during the assembly of a VW e-Golf electric car at the Transparent Factory in Dresden © Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch FILE PHOTO: Worker connects the battery during the assembly of a VW e-Golf electric car at the Transparent Factory in Dresden

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Major carmakers like Volkswagen, Daimler and Stellantis have been racing to secure battery cell supplies in Europe, but may face a bigger challenge as they seek to go electric - finding enough battery raw materials.

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Failure to obtain adequate supplies of lithium, nickel, manganese or cobalt could slow the shift to electric vehicles (EVs), make those vehicles more expensive and threaten carmakers' profit margins.

"There is a serious question as to whether supply can keep up with demand across the battery supply chain," says Daniel Harrison, an auto analyst at Ultima Media.

Until recently, Europe was seen as having lost the battery race to the dominant Asian manufacturers like CATL in China, South Korea's LG Chem, and Japan's Panasonic, says Ilka von Dalwigk from EIT InnoEnergy, which has set up a company network funded by the European Union in the "European Battery Alliance".

FILE PHOTO: Employees of German carmaker Volkswagen work in a production line of VW' new battery plant in Salzgitter © Reuters/FABIAN BIMMER FILE PHOTO: Employees of German carmaker Volkswagen work in a production line of VW' new battery plant in Salzgitter

"Nobody saw that as a problem," says von Dalwigk. "The thinking was that we can import battery cells."

But forecasts from banks like UBS that EV sales would soar over the coming decade shook the political establishment and carmakers, and forced a rethink of battery production.

PLENTY OF BATTERY PLANTS

This was followed by EU funding programmes worth billions and major battery plant announcements by car manufacturers and suppliers. Volkswagen alone plans six battery plants in Europe, while Daimler will build four with partners.

Recently, battery cell factory announcements have come thick and fast, and EIT InnoEnergy now lists almost 50 planned projects in the EU.

If all those plans become reality, local production should meet demand around 2030. About 640 gigawatt hours (GWh) would be available, enough for average annual production of 13 million cars.

By 2030, Ultima Media estimates global worldwide supply at 2,140 GWh, with demand at 2,212 GWh.

Ultima Media's Harrison projects Volkswagen's six planned plants would allow the Wolfsburg-based company to cover around two thirds of its own battery needs.

SUPPLY CHAIN GAP


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