Hurdles abound for global EV push

Top automakers, motivated either by governmental regulations or pure profit, have made a sharp turn away from fossil fuel vehicles. But there are plenty of obstacles on the road to a future full of eco-friendly cars.

Will there be enough lithium and other vital raw materials to make electric car batteries? Will there be sufficient charging stations? How will carmakers ensure that their offerings are affordable for the average driver?
Following the success of Elon Musk’s Tesla, built solely on electric vehicles, most of the biggest names in the sector are planning to invest tens of billions of dollars to reorient their businesses toward clean energy.

Locally, the Department of Trade and Industry and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization have partnered to deploy electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in five major cities in the country from 2022 to 2027.

During the recent SGV tax symposium, DTI Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba said this initiative is part of the $3.8-million DTI-UNIDO E-mobility Project.

Stellantis, the world’s fifth-largest automaker, plans to sell only electric cars in Europe by 2030. Toyota expects to release about 30 electric models in that same timeframe. GM hopes to stop making cars with combustion engines by 2035.

These corporate ambitions have dovetailed with efforts by national and local governments to go green.

On Thursday, California announced that from 2035, all new cars sold in the Golden State — the most populous in America — must be zero-emission.

The European Union also has taken steps to ban the sale of gas- or diesel-fueled cars — and even hybrids — by 2035, while China wants at least half of all new cars to be electric, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen-powered by that time.

Built-in demand
Automakers are on notice that “they are going to have to figure out how to put cars on the market,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for the automotive research firm Edmunds.

“We used to say that the challenges for electric vehicles would be consumer acceptance and price,” she added.

With car buyers increasingly attuned to the environment and the woes of climate change, selling the concept of electric vehicles is no longer an issue.

In the United States, General Motors says it has more than 150,000 pre-orders for the electric version of its Silverado pickup truck, which will be available next year. The wait time for a Tesla these days is several months.

For Caldwell, the bigger issue now is whether automakers “can get the raw materials” they need to make the cars.

Raw materials scarce
Karl Brauer, an executive analyst for used car search engine, agrees, saying that no matter what government incentives are offered for would-be buyers of electric vehicles, the rare elements needed may simply be unavailable.

“Right now, we have a lack of palladium, and nickel, and lithium. Everything you need to build an electric car is harder to get than it was six or 12 months ago,” he told AFP.

The supply issue is linked partly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine six months ago.

But Brauer said that “nobody, a year ago, would have predicted the kind of price escalation for those raw materials, and the difficulty of getting them.”

The situation “can change drastically” at any given moment, he added.

Automakers are determined to leave as little as possible to chance.

They are building their own factories to produce car batteries, setting up joint ventures with specialized parts makers and sealing partnerships with mining firms.

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