The electric car everywhere in 2035, mission impossible?

Europe has made its decision: from 2035 car manufacturers will no longer be able to market new vehicles equipped with internal combustion engines. If the possibility of using e-fuel remains a trail, the industry will go the electric route instead.

All the major car groups have already announced their intentions. Little by little, the thermal models will disappear from the new series until they reach a 100% electric proposal. That’s plan A.

In fact, technological advances make this goal difficult to achieve. This is essentially based on a big unknown: the batteries.

(Very) rare metals

Like all electronic devices, electric cars run on lithium-ion batteries. The manufacture of these batteries requires the extraction of rare metals. Located in regions where the geopolitical situation is complex, the extraction mines are also rejected by the methods used (eg child labor under armed surveillance). Therefore, the extraction of these metals becomes complex.

And that’s not to mention mine depletion is accelerating since the advent of the electric car and the spread of electronic devices. In 2022, it is already very difficult to extract certain metals such as nickel, which is increasingly rare, or cobalt.

And to date, battery requirements for the automotive industry are still minimal. What will happen in 2035, when all manufacturers will exclusively offer electric cars, if no other battery technology is offered by then? lack? Most likely. Rising production costs? Safe.

The electric car for everyone? Not immediately

Therefore, it seems difficult to imagine a democratization of the electric car by 2035. To reach the masses, the electric car must be more affordable. Today it is difficult to find a model for less than 30,000 euros that meets the needs of users. In addition, Tesla has postponed the launch of its famous more affordable model sine die.

However, as we have seen recently, manufacturers tend to increase prices. Tesla, again, alone symbolizes this trend. While the geopolitical situation is tense (the nickel mines used to make car batteries are mainly located in Russia), the price of nickel has exploded, rising from $29,000 per ton before the war at 100,000 dollars per tonnes in March 2022.

Inevitably, this cost is passed on to prices. In 2022, it is still happening, as the electric car remains a product reserved for a niche audience with comfortable finances. But by 2035, costs are likely to still be rising, and so are prices. Then it is difficult to reach the masses.

Renew, Renew, Renew

Addressing the issue of battery technology must therefore be the industry’s number one goal. Some start-ups are already working on a few avenues, particularly betting on sand or sulphide.

But so far, progress does not allow the mass design of batteries capable of replacing lithium-ion batteries. Those with sulfide, for example, are far from showing the same performance, especially in terms of autonomy. Salvation could come from research carried out in South Korea on li-metal batteries, if first tests prove conclusive. Unless graphene, which we’ve been hearing about for years, is the way to go.

In an article published on Venturebeat, Charlotte Hamilton, CEO of Conamix, a California battery start-up, explains that as things stand, the industry could not even ensure mass marketing of the electric car in the state of California. She concludes:

If the world is to hope to achieve these ambitious goals, we must make big and smart investments in new technologies in the same proportions as we set deadlines and promises.

The industrial giants have apparently taken matters into their own hands. Tesla, for example, took out the checkbook and invested $5 billion to guarantee the supply of nickel from Indonesia. A temporary solution while waiting for better. The company is also researching batteries based on other technologies and is even considering buying its own metal mines to improve its supply chain. Finally, battery recycling could also be a viable (and more sustainable) solution for the electric car’s future.

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