The electric car is failing to gain momentum in Germany, the country where the automobile was invented. Although the German government had the goal of having one million electric cars on the roads by 2020, it is already clear that this will not even be achievable by the year 2030. There are just too many negative aspects standing in its way. This affects both the range and environmental protection especially in the production and the disposal of the electric batteries. And finally there is the price of the electric cars, which is often 50 percent higher one with a gasoline engine.
Only around one percent of automobiles worldwide use electricity. But even this relatively small number consumes about half of all lithium-ion batteries that are in circulation. In addition to lithium, many other materials needed to build a high-performance battery are only available in very limited quantities on Earth. This means it is better to have the battery development and production in one’s own hands if you want to be successful in the electric mobility market.
Battery Production in Europe
One leader who believes in the future of electric cars is Germany’s Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier. He does not want Europe to rely on Chinese manufacturers for the development and production of these extremely powerful battery cells. That’s why he wants to set up production facilities in Europe. He plans to form a consortium of automakers, chemical and energy companies by the end of 2018.
Altmaier invited the most important players in the industry to Berlin to discuss the procedure. He has tempted them with taxpayers’ money of one billion Euros, because the competitors in markets outside Europe already have a significant lead. According to media reports, he wants Germany to work with other European countries and is holding discussions with certain companies.
Under the plans, two new battery cell factories will be built within Germany. Altmaier says he wants production to begin in 2021.
According to Matthias Machnig, State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the development of high-performance battery cells is a key technology, in which Germany and Europe must take a leading role in the medium term. Therefore, the settlement of a battery cell production is a significant economic and industrial policy issue.
Machnig says: “If Germany wants to remain a premium manufacturer, we need independent production for battery cells, we need European sovereignty in key technologies, and battery cell technology is one of the most important differentiating factors in electro mobility.”
Rivals from Asia and America
At present, European manufacturers of electric cars are buying their batteries from Asian companies, which in turn are already considering setting up production sites in Germany or other EU countries. China’s CATL, which is the world’s largest maker of battery cells for EVs, has announced it will build its first European production site in the city of Erfurt in eastern Germany. BMW says it plans to source 4 billion Euros of battery cells from CATL over the next few years.
In a press release BMW says ‘The award of this contract was a decisive factor in CATL’s decision to build the world’s most advanced battery cell manufacturing facility in Germany. From 2021 onwards, cells for the BMW iNEXT – which will be manufactured at the BMW Group plant in Dingolfing – will be supplied by the new CATL plant in Erfurt’.
The U.S. electric car maker Tesla is also eyeing Germany as the location for its first European gigafactory. ‘Germany is a leading choice for Europe. Perhaps on the German-French border makes sense, near the Benelux countries,’ Elon Musk said on Twitter.
The German Chancellor Angel Merkel also recently said that it is “extremely important” for the European Union to develop its own battery cell production in order to secure its long-term role in the world automotive industry. The announcement of a consortium in Germany will go some way towards remedying the current imbalance.