Electric Road: how the electric car is proving its critics wrong

In La Tribune 14/09/2021

Electric vehicle (EV) statistics were wrong. In 2015 electric car penetration was forecast at 4% for 2021 and 8% for 2030. Six years later, the figure for July 2021 is triple the forecast, at 13% for three markets Europe-China-USA averaged, but 20% for Europe, and the new forecast for 2030 has been multiplied by five, to 40%, that of 2040 it is already frozen at 95%.

This means that while 15,000 electric vehicles were sold worldwide in 2010, they will probably be close to 6 million in 2021, 37 million in 2030, and more than double that number in 2040. It is true that in 2040 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will still be on the road alongside combustion engine vehicles, but how many of these will be used and in which countries will they still be used?

False expectations and an anti-electric conspiracy

Flash forward to 2015. Some estimated that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) would displace no more than 1% of oil consumption, but others anticipated that they would threaten all oil demand consumed by the automobile; it is estimated at 26% of demand in Europe. Deception, falsification and lies as a legitimate means to achieve goals are part of the history. This is why pro-oil people invented and financed the “rare metals” fake-news, especially through publications, books or documentaries, to combat the threat of electric propulsion on oil consumption.

Since lying has the great advantage of knowing in advance what the public wants to hear, this plot insisted on several elements.

Rare metals” do not exist

First, the “rare metals” hoax warned that underground mining resources would be insufficient and would hinder the expansion of the electric car. It became necessary to exploit underwater metallic reserves, in particular nodules in the Pacific Ocean or in certain deep-sea sulphides, crusts or other polymetallic sediments. In 2021, the folly of such submarine projects is obvious, as the harmful impact of such exploitation on submarine biodiversity is still very far from being known, controlled and therefore desirable. Moreover, underground resources of cobalt, nickel, platinum, lanthanides, bauxite, iron ore and even copper are sustainable. Rare metals” do not exist, that was an anti-electricity fake-news.

Then the carbon footprint of vehicles and China were both an issue. Everyone knows that a 100% electric car fleet in Europe would eliminate almost 20% of our continent’s CO2 emissions, since the life cycle of an electric car always emits less CO2 than that of a thermal car, whether the electricity is coal-fired (50%) or hydraulic or nuclear (98%). While no manufacturer spoke of carbon neutrality a short time ago, today they all follow the evidence and aim for such neutrality: in 2030, Renault plans to sell 90 percent BEVs in Europe, Daimler plans to sell 100 percent EVs worldwide, Audi 100 percent, Porsche 80 percent… More than 30 countries have set a date for the phasing out of thermal vehicles: Norway in 2025, Europe in 2035, United States in 2045… As for China, like Europe, it is in 2035, and without its R&D and skills in the battery and BEV ecosystem over the last 20 years, the ecological transition would be 20 years behind. 

“Green car, red battery”

Since the lie presents what is expected, the “rare metals” fake-news also insisted on the slogan “green car, red battery” and ignored the substitution. In fact, in 2015, the fashion was for batteries with a high cobalt content;

in 2020, nickel was in vogue; in 2021, the deadly grip of the prices of these two metals and the thermal insecurity of batteries with a high nickel content are propelling LFP batteries without cobalt or nickel, which are used in more than one out of two batteries in China; In the future, LMNO (Lithium-manganese-nickel-oxide) et LMO (Lithium-manganese-oxide) batteries, which are heavily charged with an abundant metal, manganese, will account for 55% of BEVs, leaving nickel with a market share of only about 15%. This substitution, largely predictable to an industrial mind, overturns the geopolitical metal theories inspired by the oil wars and implemented by the “rare metals” hoax. Moreover, the same anti-electric conspiracy claimed that these batteries were not recyclable, whereas the large-scale circular economy of batteries exists, and business is fighting to collect them for recycling. Finally, let’s confirm another untruth: BEV batteries do not contain any rare earth.

The same infox also mystified the economy. In the past, if you drove more than 10,000 km per year and with a fuel price of 1.30 €/l, the savings linked to the purchase of an old BEV, compared to a thermal car, allowed a return on investment in… 56 years.

At the time, the weight of the batteries was close to 500 kg for a capacity ranging from 50KWh to 75KWh and a cost of more than 10,000 €, itself strongly dependent on the variations of nickel and cobalt prices. Improving the efficiency of a BEV meant increasing the annual driving thanks to the combination of autonomous car and shared car. Since then, advances in cathodes, but also in silicon-doped anodes, the shape and arrangement of the batteries in the vehicle have already lowered the price and increased the range of BEVs. Future innovations include dense solid-state batteries with an average weight of 150 kg, a price of less than €5,000 and fast charging. BEV and combustion engine parity is within reach, the “rare metals” fake-news was static, the economy is always dynamic.