Tesla Talks Mineral Shortages, Europe Plans New Battery Factory

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At a closed-door meeting for the mining industry, regulators, and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., last week,  sources tell Reuters that Sarah Maryssael, Tesla’s global supply manager for battery metals, said the company foresees a shortage of several minerals vital to electric vehicle production. Tesla is, thus, calling for more investment in the mining sector to stave off the coming shortages. A Tesla spokesperson said Maryssael’s comments were industry-specific and referred to the long-term supply challenges that may occur with regards to these metals.

cooper mining
Credit: Pixabay

In particular, Tesla has concerns about having access to enough nickel, copper, and lithium for its future needs. Though, the company is working aggressively to lower the amount of cobalt used in its batteries because of the controversy surrounding how cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly those that rely on abusive child labor practices.

Electric cars use twice as much copper as conventional cars, but other industries are driving up demand for copper as well. Smart home systems such as Alphabet’s Nest thermostat and Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant will consume about 1.5 million tons of copper by 2030 compared to just 38,000 tons today, according to Reuters.

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France & Germany Plan Battery Technology Push

Meanwhile, in Paris this week, the finance ministers of France and Germany announced a €5 to 6 billion initiative to fund advanced battery research and create battery factories in Europe. According to Forbes, €4 billion is expected to come from European private companies, mostly automakers and energy firms.

At a press conference, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said the investment “shows Europe is not fated to depend on technological imports from the two powers that are the United States and China.” The European Union will contribute €1.2 billion in public subsidies for the project, subject to approval by a majority of the bloc’s 28 national finance ministers in October. One of the first projects for the Franco-German consortium will be a pilot factory with around 200 employees in France which will open in the coming months.

There are already a large number of cooperative agreements between European countries to boost battery research and manufacturing. According to InnoEnergy, €100 billion has already being invested in projects that cover the entire supply chain. “I can tell you that our non-European competitors are getting worried,” Maros Sefcovic, the EU vice president for energy told the European Battery Conference in Brussels on Thursday. “But at the same time, we cannot be naïve, as we are catching up slowly.”

Supply chain management will be crucial to the success of electric vehicles as the movement to replace gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles gathers speed. Consumers rarely see what goes on behind the scenes to make all those shiny new cars and trucks possible.

By focusing on the future, Tesla and European officials are helping insure the EV revolution doesn’t get slowed by a lack of raw materials and components.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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