In La Tribune 01/12/2020
Information warfare stigmatizes the electric vehicle from its construction to its recycling: it would pollute as much or even more than a conventional car because of its battery composed of non-recyclable “rare metals”. These claims are fake news against electric mobility.
First of all in metals, the family of “rare metals” does not exist, it is a hoax saved by no geology or science. But since lanthanides exist and are also called “rare earths”, it is in order to that the infox has mixed the two: “rare earths” (which are not rare) and “rare metals” (which do not exist). The success of the trick was illustrated in August 2019 when the future former president Trump justified the possibility of buying Greenland by exploiting rare materials, rather than confessing a classic strategy of confrontation with Russia in the Far North. To confuse is to control.
There are alternatives
Second, a lithium ion battery still costs about 50% of the price of an electric vehicle. More than 60% of its value is the cost of the metals and materials, its manufacturing cost is less than 10%. However, this metallic barrier is already being circumvented by alternatives offered by research and development.
On the one hand, silicon will replace synthetic graphite with better results. On the other hand, although there is no shortage of nickel, manganese or cobalt, the share of cobalt in batteries has been sharply reduced in favor of nickel, because its price was too high. It has since been divided by three. As the price of nickel is also subject to speculation, the nickel-cobalt combination is increasingly being replaced by a modernization of lithium iron phosphate, developed 20 years ago at the CNRS in particular. Less expensive, more durable and with a longer life span, its components with higher safety standards are not under economic or environmental strain. They have already been adopted by Tesla, Daimler and Chinese manufacturers.
No shortage of lithium
Finally, from Australia, Serbia, Mexico and Alsace… lithium is a profuse element in the earth’s crust with different production methods from those of the Andean salars, its price is at the lowest level, although it is currently experiencing a small rebound thanks to anticipated sales of electric vehicles. The last hoax to kill: batteries do not contain “rare earths” and it is well known that the big consumers of these lanthanides are still gaz and diesel cars. Naturally, all of this is already part of a virtuous circular economy loop, because these materials are recyclable.
The “rare metals” fake-news of US and European origin is therefore a fifth column in the anti-electric car information warfare. It is expressed by a broth of simplifying terms such as “dirty” or “bad” and caricatural slogans: “green car, red battery”. Built to discredit factories and the technical progress of electric mobility in Europe, without ever proposing an alternative but stopping it all, it drives companies away, the industrialist is a priori a thug and science a curse.
Asian battery manufacturers are market conquistadors
And yet, despite the fake-news of “rare metals”, electric vehicles will probably increase from 2% to more than 70% of the world automobile market within 20 years; but thanks to it, and because they are not the target of the “rare metals” fake-news, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and tomorrow Indonesian battery manufacturers are continuing their conquest.
They hold 90% of the world market and are responding to Europe’s industrial backwardness by setting up their plants in Eastern Europe and Germany to better serve Europe future consumption. Silicon Valley has stifled European digital technology, resulting in the domination of the GAFA. The same scenario is unfolding before our eyes in the electrical sector, but this time to the benefit of Asia. Bravo to the “rare metals” fake-news!
At a time when the European industry is in survival mode because of the pandemic, it is therefore grotesque that European jobs in the electric car and the “battery Airbus” are being undermined by fake news about “rare metals”, whose “dirty little secrets” will one day have to be totally revealed.