Nissan is reportedly on track to have its very first solid-state battery production plant up and running by 2025, with vehicles leveraging the technology by 2028. While these units are supposed to offer increased range and decreased charging times, improving EV ownership, they also have some shortcomings engineering teams have yet to address. However, this hasn’t stopped a majority of manufacturers from pursuing the technology in the hopes of gaining an advantage over the competition as everyone attempts to transition toward all-electric lineups.
On Monday, the United States Treasury Department said it will issue proposed guidance for the updated EV tax credit scheme in March of 2023. However, the Inflation Reduction Act (H.R. 5376) directed the department to finalize its recommendations before 2022 was over by setting a December 31st deadline. While it sounds like bad news for automakers, the delay may actually work to their advantage by delaying new mineral and battery component requirements that may have made vehicles using foreign-sourced batteries ineligible.
With the United States having successfully passed the Inflation Reduction Act over the summer, the financial floodgates have been opened for battery suppliers. Despite often being framed as a massive infrastructure package that would also help tamp down U.S. inflation, the bill also included numerous items from the Biden administration’s climate agenda setting aside billions for industries vowing to go green. This includes the joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution – which will receive $2.5 billion in loans to build three new lithium-ion battery factories.
Hyundai is the latest major automaker to announce a major electric vehicle battery production facility in the United States. Ford, General Motors, and others have already broken ground on new facilities, and Hyundai is joining them with an up to $5 billion investment in Bartow County, Georgia.
With electric vehicle sales on the rise and the Biden administration allocating $900 million to address the insufficient charging infrastructure – one of the biggest obstacles EVs have to contend with – it seems like alternative energy automobiles may indeed become the future of driving. However, there is one problem even a firehose of money and mounting regulatory pressure can’t address.
Despite massive investments from both government and private entities, EVs need batteries, and the raw materials required aren’t getting any easier to obtain. Lithium values continue to rise and have recently reached an all-time high that’s setting the stage for pricier electric vehicles. While this wouldn’t be so bad by itself, EV prices jumped dramatically this year and have continued to do so at a pace that has overshadowed their combustion-reliant counterparts.
A few years ago, the industry narrative was that all-electric vehicles would reach financial parity with their combustion-driven counterparts in 2025. The assumption was that this would gradually occur by way of ramping up battery production and leveraging economies of scale. However, reality had a different take, as the world is now confronting record-setting prices across the board. Manufacturer and dealer hikes have resulted in the average invoice of EVs rising to $54,000 — roughly 10 grand higher than the typical transaction price of gasoline-powered vehicles, according to J.D. Power.
With economic pressures spiking the value of all automobiles, hardly anything is leaving the lot for less than it could have been had for in 2020. But the increases seen on all-electric models are actually outpacing the models we’ve been told they’re supposed to replace.
Ford Motor Co. will be suspending end-of-lease buyout options for customers driving all-electric vehicles, provided they took possession of the model after June 15, 2022. Those who nabbed their Mach-E beforehand will still have the option of purchasing the automobile once their lease ends. However, there are some states that won’t be abiding by the updated rules until the end of the year, not that it matters when customers are almost guaranteed to have to wait at least that long on a reserved vehicle.
A group of German automakers, chemical concerns, and battery producers have announced the joint development of a “battery passport” designed to help government regulators trace the history of the cells. The consortium is funded by the German government and is supposed to work in tandem with new battery regulations that are being prepared by the European Union.
According to the German economic ministry, officially the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, the overarching plan is for the EU to mandate traceable hardware be installed in all batteries used in the continent by 2026. Those intended for use in electric vehicles are up first, with the passport scheme also serving to chronicle everything from the vehicle’s repair history to where the power cell’s raw materials were sourced.
U.S. President Joe Biden is said to be considering utilizing wartime powers to spur domestic electric vehicle battery production. The administration reportedly wants to add the necessary raw materials to the Defense Production Act (DPA) penned at the start of the Korean War in 1950.
Originally designed to give the federal government more control of the U.S. economy (especially in regard to raw materials) throughout the Cold War, the law has also been leveraged by the Department of Defense to advance new technologies starting in the 1980s. In 2011, Barack Obama invoked the act to force telecommunications companies to provide detailed information to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security. Donald Trump would later invoke the DPA to identify an array of products deemed critical to national security as the trade war with China heated up, and then again to spearhead domestic production of materials and goods pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ford Motor Co. has shared its intent to launch seven fully electric vehicles in Europe, including a battery-electric variant of the Puma subcompact crossover, its best-selling (and looking) passenger car for the market. Though the first EV in its new product offensive will be a midsize crossover helping Blue Oval deliver on a previous promise to manufacture electric vehicles in Cologne, Germany.
The unit is said to capitalize on Ford’s partnership with Volkswagen Group by leaning on the latter entity’s MEB platform that already underpins VW’s ID products and Audi’s e-tron vehicles. Driving range is estimated at 311 miles per charge, with the company anticipating a formal debut later this year.
We’ve written about the lofty promises automakers are making when it comes to EVs, but regardless of whether you think they’ll make their targets or not, they’re at least putting plans in motion.
Ford has its Blue Oval City. Meanwhile, General Motors has plans to open a battery-cell lab in suburban Detroit.
Daimler is getting cozy with Chrysler again, or at least the American side of Stellantis, so they can tackle battery development and production. Those in the know will recall that Chrysler has been passed around more than a bottle of booze at a middle school party. But its long history of partnerships also kept it in business and resulted in some of its better products.
Before the Amero-French merger that resulted in Stellantis, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was an Italian-American company with facilities dotted around North America. Prior to that, it was known as DaimlerChrysler – resulting in the LX Platform, Pentastar V6, and a wider variety of Jeep Wranglers. Now, Chrysler’s alienated German wife has shown up on the doorstep with a wad of cash and news that she’ll be investing it into the new battery business.
The Chevrolet Bolt has evolved from being General Motors’ superstar EV, radiating optimism for the company’s ambitious electrification strategy, to a public relations nightmare in relatively short order. While sales of the hatchback (and EUV) actually skyrocketed in Q2 of 2021, thanks largely to a diminished production output from the same period in 2020, shoppers are becoming aware of the fire reports and prolonged recall campaign that followed.
Another chapter has been added to that story, with GM now convinced that this will be the conclusion of the dejected tale. On Monday, the manufacturer issued an announcement that batteries for the Bolt had resumed production. But they won’t be coming out of the South Korean facility owned by LG Chem that’s been alleged as ground zero for the relevant defects. GM has instead elected to source the units from Michigan while LG improves quality assurance with the automaker peering over its shoulder, hopeful that customers will someday be able to use their car normally. Sadly, that moment still looks to be several months away.
Chevrolet has issued a statement to owners of Bolt EVs that could be subject to surprise fires while charging, offering more tips on how to avoid burning down their homes while it preps another recall. General Motors and supplier LG Chem have identified “two rare manufacturing defects” that they believe are causing the fires and are suggesting avoid charging their vehicles in an extremely specific manner until after the secondary recall has been conducted.
On Wednesday, Ford CEO Jim Farley told attendees of the Wolfe Research Auto Conference that the United States needs to start building batteries for the industry’s planned deluge of electric vehicles now that semiconductor shortages have revealed the dangers of needing to source essential components from the other side of the planet.
Farley is likely correct in stating that America really should be able to supply itself, and not just in regard to semiconductor chips. Pandemic-related lockdowns crippled countless industries by upsetting the balance of supply lines. Halfway through 2020, farmers were dumping millions of gallons of milk per day and plowing up fields of eatable vegetables as restaurants were shutdown; factories were idled as part shortages became commonplace; cleaning supplies and disinfectants became impossible to find.
But it’s hard to translate that into sympathy for Ford because, while all of the above was happening, the automaker’s leadership was saying that there was no good reason to manufacture its own batteries.
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