Volkswagen will invest an additional €17bn in the development of electric vehicles and build more battery models at its high-cost German plants, as the carmaker seeks to mollify unions following public clashes with management.
The total spend on the electric transition will rise from €35bn to €52bn, the largest such investment by any traditional manufacturer. VW will also make its flagship battery model, the ID.3, at its home plant in Wolfsburg.
The announcements by VW’s supervisory board came after weeks of open warfare between chief executive Herbert Diess, who has long sought to slash the company’s cost base, and VW’s powerful works council, which represents most of the group’s 290,000 employees in Germany.
In a fraught meeting between workers and management last month, union leaders warned Diess that “a coach who no longer has access to the team loses on the pitch” after he had suggested that VW needed to shed 30,000 jobs.
The race is on to secure the global supply of lithium, a necessary component in the production of batteries for EVs.
Even though China’s lithium reserves rank as the world’s fourth largest, the silvery metal is mainly found in the salt lakes around Tibet and Qinghai, a sparsely populated Chinese province spread across the high-altitude Tibetan plateau. That makes it difficult to refine and transport. While the production of lithium carbonate from Qinghai Lake has doubled this year, demand still outpaces supply, according to Dong Yang, the vice president of leading automotive think tank China EV 100. To make up the shortfall, China imports about 70% of lithium from overseas. And with the prospect of even more lithium needed as the EV revolution picks up speed, companies are stepping up efforts to secure supply for its dominant refinery sector.
Ganfeng Lithium, one of the world’s top lithium producers, bid for a stake in Canada’s Millennial Lithium in July, while battery making giant CATL, led by billionaire Zeng Yuqun, joined the race a few months later, trumping Ganfeng. In the end, it was a third company, Lithium Americas, that emerged victorious (although Ganfeng is a shareholder in Lithium Americas). Undeterred, Ganfeng in September bought out its partner, International Lithium, in the Mariana project in Argentina, one of the biggest deposits globally. Last month, Zijin Mining paid around $755 million cash for Neo Lithium, a Canadian group that also has operations in Argentina.
Carmakers are getting in on the action too, with BYD earlier this month inking a four-year supply deal with Do-Fluoride New Materials for at least 56,050 tons of lithium hexafluorophosphate through December 2025. Lyu Xiangyang, the cousin of BYD founder Wang Chuanfu whose loan helped Wang establish the company in 1995, also has investments in spodumene, a lithium-bearing raw mineral, in Sichuan province, which should bolster BYD’s future supplies.
Meanwhile » Stellantis said it has secured a five-year supply of battery-grade lithium hydroxide to support its plans to convert to 98% electrified vehicles by 2025. » Washington Post »
Stellantis, the company that combined PSA Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler, signed a binding agreement with Vulcan Energy Resources Ltd. in Germany, which uses geothermal energy to produce the battery-quality lithium hydroxide from brine without using fossil fuels. Vulcan will supply between 81,000 metric tons and 99,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide over the five-year term of the agreement.
In Norway, one in every four customers who test-drove a Nio bought the car, a higher proportion than in China, according to Li. Nio will be “in at least five European markets [in addition to Norway] by the end of 2022,” he said.
Chinese automakers are struggling to gain traction overseas. They lack the strong global brands of their Western and Japanese counterparts. Nio is taking on powerhouses like Tesla and covets a slice of the luxury car market. It is seeking to become a household name in Europe while the big global carmakers continue to hedge their bets on electric vehicles.
EV sales are ballooning in Europe. In the July to September quarter, they made up 12.7% of total new car sales in 18 major European markets, more than double the figure for the same period last year, which came to 6.1%, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. The number of EVs sold during the period totalled 303,273, up 57% from a year earlier.
Cody Lusk, President & CEO of the American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA), today released the following statement »
The inclusion of the complex and discriminatory $4,500 UAW-only tax credit in the House of Representative’s final version of the Build Back Better Act is a slap in the face of 673,000 Americans who work in international nameplate manufacturing plants and dealerships. As written, the provision uses tax dollars to complicate the electric vehicle purchase process and advantage union workers ahead of other American workers. All American workers deserve their lawmakers’ respect. Now, international nameplate dealers must turn their attention to the U.S. Senate in hopes of regaining that respect and restoring a level playing field for American workers.
Yet demand may still outstrip supply.
The most recent analysis shows carmakers planning to spend an estimated $515 billion over the next five to 10 years to develop and build new battery-powered vehicles and shift away from combustion engines.
But industry executives and forecasters remain concerned that consumer demand for EVs could fall well short of aggressive targets without substantial additional incentives and even greater spending on charging infrastructure and grid capacity.
According to new analysis from the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), 90,000 automotive technicians will be required to provide sufficient workforce to service the volume of zero-emissions vehicles predicted to be on UK roads by 2030 – the government’s Road to Zero deadline.
While the automotive sector has identified this requirement and is working hard to retrain and upskill automotive technicians, the professional body is predicting that there will be a shortfall of 35,700 technicians by 2030, with 2026 marking the point at which the skills gap will become evident.
Steve Nash, CEO of the Institute of the Motor Industry »
As of 2020, there were 15,400 qualified TechSafe technicians in the UK. That number represents just 6.5% of the UK automotive sector and was already giving us cause for concern. Our new analysis paints an even more challenging picture.
The pace of EV adoption is accelerating, even while the issues around infrastructure remain a barrier. Once the charging network is fit for purpose, combined with electric vehicles becoming more financially accessible, the next big challenge will be how to ensure we have a workforce adequately qualified to provide the essential servicing, maintenance, and repair to keep these vehicles safe on the roads. And that’s where we believe government attention – and funds – should be focused now.
Whether it’s looking at incentives to retrain the existing workforce, or ensuring that school-leavers and people changing the direction of their career are excited about the prospects of working in such a fast-moving sector, there needs to be a mind-shift in how to fix the widening skills gap. Significant investment is being ploughed into infrastructure, but the government still seems to be ignoring the fact that without a skilled workforce, it will fail in its decarbonisation ambitions.
Using the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) upper scenario on EV adoption, the IMI predicts that the number of qualified technicians required by 2030 is 90,000. As of 2020 there were 15,400 qualified, and using current forecast trends, by 2030 there could be a shortfall of 35,700 qualified technicians, risking the safety of technicians and undermining confidence that electric vehicles can be serviced, maintained, and repaired by a garage with the right skills.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk says he isn’t giving Hertz a discount on the reported $4.2 billion order. But he doesn’t need to because the House reconciliation spending bill includes a 30% tax credit for “qualified commercial electric vehicles.”
The text doesn’t clearly define what is a “qualified commercial electric” vehicle, but our sources say Hertz’s Teslas would likely make the cut. The credit could save Hertz $1.26 billion and make a Tesla almost as cheap for Hertz to buy as a Toyota Camry.
Hertz plans to install thousands of electric-vehicle chargers, which could also be eligible for taxpayers subsidies. The House spending bill extends a 30% tax credit for the installation of EV charging stations through 2031, which is on top of the $7.5 billion appropriation for stations in the separate Senate infrastructure bill.