The European Union’s ban on petrol and diesel cars from 2035 sanctions a development already underway in the markets: sales of electric cars are accelerating at great speed, already accounting for a quarter of total sales in some parts of the world. But the conversion of our vehicle fleet is met with resistance from the West, who are digging underground to extract the raw materials needed for electric vehicles.
And in California, a significant environmental manifesto is causing a stir because it is also declaring war on electric cars: Too polluting, no solution. While the announced death of the petrol or diesel car has received formal approval from the European Parliament, the direction of the journey is already clear to many consumers. In 2022, electric cars will exceed the 10% threshold of the global total for the first time. 7.8 million were sold, a 68% increase in just one year. The world average hides much more advanced peaks. At the top are China and Germany.
Electric cars already accounted for 25% of production in the German market last year, and almost 20% of new registrations in the Chinese market are fully electric. All of this data excludes hybrids, which would increase the percentages even further. The European average is 20% like the Chinese. The United States continues to lag behind (6% of EVs out of total sold in 2022), despite having a world champion like Tesla, who is still the number one EV seller on the planet.
But the Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Joe Biden, contains such generous tax incentives for electric vehicles that sales in America are also expected to jump (the name of the Inflation Reduction Act may be misleading, but it is actually Biden’s Green Deal, generous with subsidies for green technologies and sustainable transition).
Another important signal from the market: Electric cars are rapidly approaching the prices of petrol and diesel engines. The drop in list prices is due to both tax breaks and savings in production costs that result as factories increase output. Speaking of factories, however, another American piece of news sheds some light on our contradictions (ours as Westerners). Ford announces it will build a new factory in Michigan to make batteries for its electric cars, investing $3.5 billion and hiring 2,500 people. However, it will produce under license from Catl, the Chinese number one in electric batteries. Our dependence on China in this area is increasing.
Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act or Green Deal is a perfect example of the contradictions we are prisoners of. On the one hand it is trying to dismantle the overwhelming Chinese monopoly on green technologies – electric batteries or photovoltaic panels – on the other hand the Biden administration itself is giving in to pressure from some environmental lobbies and spreading obstacles against the exploitation of local resources. Starting with rare earths and strategic minerals used in batteries or solar panels. On the one hand, Biden is ordering his Department of Energy to fund a $700 million lithium project in Nevada, $300 million for a graphite plant in Louisiana. But on the flip side, Biden authorizes his Interior Department to block a new copper, nickel and cobalt mine in Minnesota.
They are all minerals and metals that are essential for electric batteries. Currently they are mainly extracted in emerging countries and then processed and refined in China: therefore, due to the type of industrial processes used in these countries, they pollute much more than if we did the same things at home; However, the pollution is “out of sight, out of mind” so the problem for westerners isn’t there. In fact, America is split in two when it comes to mining activity: only in Republican-ruled states, where mining industries with old traditions often already exist, is it possible to move forward with new mining projects at a rapid pace.
A case in point is Nebraska, where a new project to mine rare earth elements such as titanium, scandium and niobium has recently started. Nebraska is governed by Republican Jim Pillen, the mining industry is entrenched in the state, and local people see it as a “patriotic duty” to allow mining to break free from China.
The message from California, the cradle of modern environmental protection, was quite different. Californian ecologists played a pioneering role in the 1970s. Today many of them embrace the more extremist versions of what seems to have become the religion of anti-development. A striking example is provided by a new report entitled “Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility and Less Mining”. It was designed by University of California scientists gathered under the aegis of the Climate + Community Project. It will certainly have a big impact, like all environmental statements that come out of California. This report contains a veritable declaration of war on the electric car. Starting from obvious considerations: the electric car is by no means zero emissions, many of its components require polluting activities to be manufactured, starting with metals and rare earths and ending with the construction of the distribution network (the chargers).
The list of misdeeds of the electric car is well known to those who have studied it closely. But until recently, highlighting the “impurity” of electric vehicles was such a taboo that director Michael Moore was lynched on social media and downright censored by single-minded environmentalists for making a documentary about the dark side of the transition to a world of Tesla turned . The contradictions are not limited to America.
Sweden recently announced the discovery of new rare earth deposits, the richest deposits in all of Europe. The Swedish company Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag or Lkab, in charge of exploiting these resources, could carry out the extraction and processing while minimizing CO2 emissions: Northern Sweden is rich in renewable energy, from hydroelectric to nuclear to wind. The mining and handling of rare earths in Sweden certainly causes much less pollution than in China. But mining is still hampered: it’s still “dirty”, and then there’s the noise pollution, in short, nobody likes having that in their own four walls.
Thus, between disputes, consultations with the local population, technical tests and permits, Swedish forecasts speak of at least 10-15 years to fall back on this new deposit. The harmony between the problems of Sweden (the country of Greta Thunberg) and the above-mentioned Californian report, the result of the academics who have proclaimed themselves guardians of the purity of the environmental movement, is evident. If you are against the electric car, what do you propose as an alternative? A world populated by pedestrians, bicycles and trains is their idea of mobility. A very typical idea of ”ZTL”, of privileged people living in urban centers that are well served by public transport. More realistically, if this new crusade by the most extreme environmental fringe groups wins, it means we will be more slaves than ever to autocracies and their monopolies.