This week, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares sat down for an interview with several European newspapers, including Les Echos, Handelsblatt, Corriere della Sera, and El Mundo. During the interview, he told the press the European Commission strategy to phase out combustion engines in favor of electric vehicles is a political choice that carries environmental and social risks.
“What is clear is that electrification is a technology chosen by politicians, not by industry,” he said, before adding that in his opinion, there are faster and less expensive ways to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles. “Given the current European energy mix, an electric car needs to drive 70,000 kilometres to compensate for the carbon footprint of manufacturing the battery and to start catching up with a light hybrid vehicle, which costs half as much as an EV (electric vehicle),” he said.
According to Automotive News Europe, Tavares also said a ban on internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035 in Europe means carmakers need to start transforming their plants and supply chains quickly. “The brutality of this change creates social risk,” he said.
Many CleanTechnica readers will take issue with Tavares’ claims about how far a battery electric car has to drive before it offsets the carbon emissions from manufacturing the battery. It is true that many parts of Europe still rely heavily on electricity from thermal generating plants that burn coal, but there are many other places where clean renewable energy is the norm. Companies like Volkswagen are working diligently to lower the environmental impact of building electric cars — including the batteries — while Stellantis is more dependent on outside suppliers.
There is an argument that can be made that companies like Volkswagen that are proactive about choosing suppliers who can deliver batteries with the lowest carbon footprint and who are in a position to order billions of dollars worth of batteries may have an advantage over companies like Stellantis that is planning no battery manufacturing factories of its own and is reliant on whatever batteries are available after the big companies have met their supply needs.
As for the social impact of the EV revolution, no one denies it will be significant. Last fall, Volkswagen Group head Herbert Diess got in hot water when he warned that as many as 30,000 manufacturing jobs could be at risk within the company if it fails to take a leadership position in the switch to electric cars and loses sales as a result.
In a similar vein, Tavares warns that he may not be able to justify keeping every manufacturing facility that produces cars for Stellantis open in the future. For instance, he singled out the high cost of production in Italy, home to FIAT since it was founded in 1899. Making automobiles there costs double what it does in other countries, primarily due to high energy prices, according to Tavares.
“I generally hold on to the promises I make, but we also need to remain competitive.” The Italian government is promising to bring down the costs of production. “It takes some time for the measures to be implemented,” Tavares said. “We will discuss this again at the end of 2022.” The company is expected to announce a new long-term strategic plan on March 1.
Tavares’ praise of plug-in hybrids will also ring hollow to the ears of many readers. Recently, EU regulators have found that many PHEVs sold in Europe actually pollute more than their gasoline and diesel powered cousins. Manufacturers are touting PHEVs — and claiming EV incentives for them — when in fact those cars are not helping lower emissions significantly and may actually be making things worse. Tavares did not address that issue.
According to Mopar Insiders, Tavares did say that there are no plans to re-introduce Peugeot to the North American market and that Dodge, Ram, Chrysler, and Jeep would retain their unique brand identities. He also said Opel and Fiat might share platforms and various vehicle technologies.
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