EU says it could be self-sufficient in electric vehicle batteries by 2025

China currently dominates the market for electric car battery production, but the EU production is expanding fast [Frank Hebbert / Flickr]

The European Union could produce enough batteries by 2025 to power its fast-growing fleet of electric vehicles without relying on imported cells, European Commission Vice President Maros Šefčovič said on Tuesday (24 November).

As part of its plan to become climate neutral by 2050, the EU wants to boost local production of the building blocks for green industries – including hydrogen fuel to make low-carbon steel and batteries to power clean vehicles.

“I am confident that, by 2025, the EU will be able to produce enough battery cells to meet the needs of the European automotive industry, and even to build our export capacity,” Šefčovič told the online European Conference on Batteries.

Today, China hosts roughly 80% of the world’s lithium-ion cell production, but Europe’s capacity is set to expand fast.

The Commission will table new EU-wide regulations this autumn to ensure batteries manufactured or imported into Europe are “the greenest on this planet,” Šefčovič told EURACTIV in an interview last month.

These regulations will put pressure on third country manufacturers, like those in China, and the Commission hopes to give the European market a boost by leading the way in clean batteries.

“Even if we extract lithium, we currently still have to ship it over to China to get it refined and then the carbon footprint makes it less attractive for consumers who, for example, would like to purchase an electric car,” he added.

EU's Sefcovic: Europe must be 'much more strategic' on raw materials

The European Union “cannot achieve” climate neutrality without critical raw materials like lithium and rare earths, says Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič. It now needs to be “much more strategic” in relations with supplier countries in order to ensure the bloc’s “strategic autonomy,” he argues.

Creating a more local supply chain for electric vehicles is key for the European Union, particularly for countries manufacturing electric vehicles, like Germany, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council.

Europe has 15 large-scale battery cell factories under construction, including Swedish company Northvolt’s plants in Sweden and Germany, Chinese battery maker CATL’s German facility, and South Korean firm SK Innovation’s second plant in Hungary.

Šefčovič said that, by 2025, planned European facilities would produce enough cells to power at least 6 million electric vehicles.

While the coronavirus pandemic has seen overall car sales plummet, combined sales of battery and plug-in hybrid cars in Europe are expected to roughly double this year, to one million units, according to the NGO Transport & Environment.

With the Commission expecting 13 million low-emission vehicles on Europe’s roads by 2025, further investments will be needed.

“We need to make significant investments in creating a full European supply chain and labour market to support the battery factories,” Northvolt’s Vice President of Communications Jesper Wigardt said.

Šefčovič said the EU’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund was a “ready-made tool” to support projects.

Brussels will next month propose standards for the carbon footprint of batteries, while a private-public EU alliance aims to boost domestic supplies of the raw materials needed to make cells. That follows a similar EU scheme for battery projects launched in 2017.

Raw materials: the missing link in Europe’s drive for batteries

While Europe is rapidly catching up with China on investments into batteries for electric cars, it is still lagging behind when it comes to securing supplies of the critical raw materials that are needed to produce them.

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