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Electric car targets at risk: federal agency warns of lithium shortage

2022-06-23T10:00:52.481Z

From 2035, only e-cars will be registered in the EU - but according to a media report, figures from a federal authority raise doubts about the project. Accordingly, a critical raw material for batteries is becoming scarce.



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Lithium production in Bolivia: National interests make trade on the world market more difficult

Photo: CLAUDIA MORALES / REUTERS

A shortage of lithium threatens the switch to electric cars - the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) expects this, as the "Handelsblatt" reports.

Although the metal used in batteries is generally available in abundance worldwide, funding projects have been delayed.

Governments are partly blocking the rapid development of additional deposits, partly there is a lack of private capital to develop the deposits.

According to the newspaper, other companies and specialist organizations share this assessment by the authority.

It belongs to the Federal Ministry of Economics, led by Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens).

If the assumptions are correct, the phase-out of the internal combustion engine in the EU, which is planned for 2035, would also be in jeopardy.

According to the will of the Commission and Parliament, only zero-emission vehicles should then be permitted - i.e. electric cars with batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.

The national governments are currently coordinating their positions on this, and in the coming days and weeks they will be negotiating with the European Parliament and the EU Commission.

In Germany, the FDP had recently spoken out against phasing out the combustion engine.

The party wants to give cars with internal combustion engines a future if they are operated with climate-neutral e-fuels.

Finance Minister and FDP leader Christian Lindner justified this primarily with the fact that cars with petrol or diesel engines would be in demand on other continents in the coming decades.

The European car industry would run the risk of losing the know-how for building such cars if they were no longer allowed to sell them on the home market.

Specifically, the BGR expects that the global demand for lithium for batteries will increase to between 316,000 and more than 550,000 tons per year by 2030.

About 90 percent of this would be needed for lithium-ion batteries that are installed in electric cars.

Then up to 300,000 tons of lithium per year would be missing.

According to the report, 82,000 tons of lithium were produced worldwide in 2020.

Commodity forecasts should be treated with caution

Lithium is a key component of traction batteries in battery-powered electric cars.

The raw material is traded as lithium carbonate.

The prices for this material have recently risen sharply because the demand for e-cars is increasing worldwide - thanks to government regulations and rising fuel prices.

At the same time, the capacity of the batteries is increasing, so that more lithium is required per vehicle.

However, strong price increases in the raw materials industry often trigger new waves of investment in production.

As a result, supply may increase more than predicted.

Forecasts on the availability of raw materials should therefore always be treated with great caution.

Up until the early 2010s, experts had long expected that oil would become scarce and steadily more expensive.

But then high prices in the USA triggered a production boom with the new fracking technology.

More oil became available and prices fell.

Europe is largely dependent on imports

However, such a development cannot be transferred directly to the raw material lithium.

According to the BGR, it takes five to ten years before a new deposit can be developed.

Governments often complicate the process, also because some states such as Chile or Bolivia want to take the funding into their own hands - partly to strengthen their own e-car industry.

From a European perspective, national interests could become particularly problematic with lithium.

Only part of the globally mined metal is available on the world market.

In the USA, for example, the government has reactivated a law that means that raw materials such as lithium must primarily be used in the USA itself.

Another major supplier is China, which itself wants to become the leading manufacturer of electric cars.

However, according to the “Handelsblatt” report, 56 percent of Europe is dependent on imports.

This is already jeopardizing the federal government's goal of getting a total of 15 million electric cars on German roads by 2030.

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Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-06-23

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