Should Tesla Have Built Its European Gigaplant In The UK Instead Of Germany?

After all, Germany wasn’t the only option on the table. There were rumors last year that Elon Musk was in talks with the UK government to open a Gigafactory in Somerset in the UK. Some years ago, the UK was a preferred manufacturing location for non-European car brands because it had direct access to the EU market but more relaxed labor laws.

Several Japanese manufacturers, including Toyota, allegedly built their manufacturing in the UK for that reason. The country was even dubbed the “Japanese aircraft carrier floating off the coast of Europe” in 1992 by Jacques Calvet, who was then head of PSA Group, a French automaker that was the country’s largest industrial company at the time (and now part of Stellantis).

Sadly, Brexit has reduced the UK’s utility in this respect, so that only the reduced red tape at the manufacturing stage remains. There is now a lot more bureaucracy when it comes to trading with the EU from the UK, and that was reportedly a major factor in Honda closing its Swindon factory after 35 years.

Officially, bureaucracy is not why Tesla walked away from the EU money he was being offered, though, even if you can bet there would have been many hoops to jump through to get it. Musk stated that he had turned down the $1.28 billion in EU funding for the Berlin Gigafactory because “It has always been Tesla’s view that all subsidies should be eliminated. But that must include the massive subsidies for oil & gas. For some reason, governments don’t want to do that…”

You should always take such statements from Musk with a pinch of salt, particularly considering his record on labor relations, which isn’t as benevolent as his environmental message. However, he does have a point about subsidies. There are a lot of complaints about governmental assistance for EVs and green energy, but the oil and gas industry hasn’t exactly been free from monetary incentives over the years either.

Activist group Paid to Pollute claims the UK has provided nearly £14 billion ($18.7 billion) in subsidies to oil and gas since 2016 alone. In the US, the figure is more than this every year, with an Oil Change International report in 2017 putting the American total at $20.5 billion annually.

There is also more to attract business than just hassle-free labor, financial kickbacks, and free trade agreements. The UK does have considerable other opportunities in the brave new world of EVs. Start-up Britishvolt broke ground on the UK’s first battery Gigaplant in August, a £2.6 billion ($3.5 billion) project that aims to create 8,000 new jobs and manufacture 30GWh of batteries from 2027 onwards, enough for 300,000 EVs a year.

The UK also has its own supplies of lithium, a key element in most rechargeable battery chemistries, which Cornish Lithium and British Lithium hope to exploit. This is both from mining and brine, geothermal underground water that is high in lithium content. These companies even argue that there will be enough local lithium to electrify the entire UK car fleet. Electric hypercar maker Rimac has its design office in the UK too, because of the talent available in the country.

Tesla does need to think about where it is producing cars for the right-hand-drive market. This doesn’t just include the UK, but also Japan, South Africa (plus several adjacent countries), Australia, New Zealand and (the big ones) India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Malaysia and Thailand also drive on the left. In fact, the sum of right-hand-drivers is 2.8 billion people – 36% of the world population.

Right now, the Tesla cars coming into the UK are being made in China, which ironically is considered to be a quality improvement over those manufactured in America. The Chinese Model 3s now also come with LFP batteries, which are cheaper, more tolerant of being charged to 100%, and contain no cobalt, so are free of the moral issues that mining that mineral poses. But even if China is a cost-effective place to produce cars, transporting them around the world is hardly great for the environment.

Tesla will almost certainly iron out its problems in Germany sometime in 2022. But you do have to wonder if Elon Musk is considering it a rather bitter pill dealing with the bureaucracy that he has faced setting up the Gigafactory in Berlin. Even when the plant opens, this is likely to continue, looking at past history in Europe. Perhaps, as the EV market continues to grow, local UK manufacturing could end up back on the table. Brexit or no Brexit, the UK is still a very lucrative automotive market after all.

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I am the editor of independent electric vehicle website WhichEV. I have over 25 years’ experience as a technology journalist and a life-long love of cars, so having the two come

Source: Should Tesla Have Built Its European Gigaplant In The UK Instead Of Germany?

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A Diesel Engine Giant Pushes Batteries And Hydrogen At COP26 To Combat Climate Crisis

Cummins Inc., a century-old maker of truck engines powered by diesel and other fossil fuels, may not seem like the most likely attendee at the UN Climate Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, but CEO Tom Linebarger was there this week telling industrial partners and customers the company is working to help them shift to low- and no-carbon vehicles powered by batteries and hydrogen.

As battery-electric passenger models gain market share in the U.S., Europe and China, attention is shifting to electrifying larger, dirtier commercial vehicles including semi-trucks, construction and mining vehicles, as well as trains, ships and aircraft. Currently, no single type of electric power train can easily scale to handle light and heavy-duty vehicle categories, so it’s necessary to use both, Linebarger tells Forbes.

“If you’re flogging one thing and you trash the other, it’s not a good plan for meeting the challenge of climate change,” he said from Glasgow. “Climate change is the existential crisis of our time. It’s just not a good idea to argue about whether batteries are better than fuel cells.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose company has become synonymous with electric cars, is among the most vocal critics of using hydrogen as a transportation fuel, citing its inefficiency relative to batteries and the high cost of the fuel cell stacks that make electric power from hydrogen and oxygen. Yet makers of trucks and commercial vehicles that need to travel long distances aren’t convinced that multi-ton, lithium-ion battery packs that need relatively long recharge times are the best option.

(Notably, Musk also doesn’t launch his SpaceX rockets with batteries, but instead a blend of kerosene and liquid oxygen that spew climate-warming black carbon, or soot.)

Shifting away from carbon-based fuels was a key topic for negotiators at COP26 and appeared to have made a historic breakthrough with a first-draft agreement calling for the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies. But a second draft appeared to soften the wording as major oil and gas producers fight to save subsidies.

Rather than storing electricity as batteries do, fuel cells make it as needed in an electrochemical process involving hydrogen and oxygen that emits only water as a by-product. Columbus, Indiana-based Cummins is far from alone in pushing hydrogen to power heavy-duty vehicles. Toyota, Hino, Hyundai Motor, Volvo, Daimler, Nikola, General Motors and Navistar have their own hydrogen-fueled plans.

They say the technology is better suited for heavy trucks that drive hundreds of miles per day than multi-ton batteries, such as those required by Tesla’s long-delayed electric Semi, as the fuel cell power train is lighter and can be refueled about as quickly as a diesel truck.

Cummins sees batteries as a better option for smaller, lighter types of vehicles that don’t need to travel particularly long distances, but not as practical for users in remote areas or who require heavier types of applications.

“To bring battery-charging stations to every farm and every application, it’s just incredibly expensive, versus to make hydrogen available, which is transportable,” Linebarger says. “And vice versa . . . hydrogen is just not a good fuel when you can charge your cars at home and have to transport hydrogen around. You just lose too much efficiency.”

During the international conference, Cummins met with operators of large commercial fleets who are eager to make them more sustainable but are running into practical challenges to do so.

“There’s many big fleets here, actually. Their sustainability leaders here meeting with us are saying, ‘How can they hit these goals? And how can we help them do that faster?’” Amy Davis, president of Cummins’ New Power Segment, said from Glasgow. “They’re getting their head around last-mile trucks, but what about long-haul?

It can’t get there right now and [saying] ‘I couldn’t even charge three of my trucks at once, given the system that’s out there for charging. So what are we going to do?’ This is where fuel cell electric drive train can be quite complementary with the battery work that’s going on.”

But even as electric power train technologies advance, other options shouldn’t be overlooked in the near term, says Linebarger.

“We should start even on technologies that we have today, like lower carbon fuels, natural gas, renewable natural gas in (internal combustion) engines, because we are running out of time. It’s just that simple,” he said. “We are putting carbon in the atmosphere that we cannot remove so we need to get moving on all of them.”

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Organic Based EV Battery Turns To Ethanol For a Boost In Energy Density

While on the face of it, the lithium-batteries that power electric vehicles play an important role in our ongoing shift to sustainable transport, they aren’t without environmental problems of their own. Batteries that use organic, readily available materials in place of rare metals are seen as a promising part of the solution to this dilemma, and new research led by University of Houston scientists demonstrates how the performance of these eco-friendly devices might be brought up to speed.

As demand for electronic devices and vehicles continues to grow, so does the reliance on lithium-ion batteries that rely on scarce metals. Front and center of this dilemma is cobalt, the mining of which is not only associated with environmental degradation and pollution of water supplies, but plagued by ethical issues such as the exploitation of child labor. The use of these metals also makes recycling the batteries difficult at the end of their lives.

However, we are seeing some exciting advances being made in the development of batteries that do away with these types of materials and use organic ones instead. These have included organic-based batteries that can break down in acid for recycling, a heavier reliance on cheaper and more environmentally friendly nickel, and even one from IBM that uses materials found in seawater.

The new device marries this organic architecture with another promising branch of battery research focusing on the use of solid-state electrolytes. Typical batteries move their electrical charge between two electrodes, a cathode and anode, in a liquid electrolyte solution, but scientists are making great inroads into alternative designs that use a solid electrolyte instead. This type of architecture could also allow batteries to work with a lithium metal anode, which could store as much as 10 times the energy of current devices.

The scientists behind the new battery have solved what they say is a key limitation of organic-based, solid-state lithium batteries. Where cobalt-based cathodes afford these batteries a high energy density, ones made from organic materials suffer from limited energy density, which the team found to be because of microscopic structures within the cathode. “Cobalt-based cathodes are often favored because the microstructure is naturally ideal but forming the ideal microstructure in an organic-based solid-state battery is more challenging,” says study author Jibo Zhang.

Working with a cathode made from an organic material called pyrene-4,5,9,10-tetraone (PTO), the scientists used ethanol as a solvent to alter its microstructure. This treatment resulted in a new arrangement that allowed for better transport of ions within the cathode and boosted its energy density to 302 Wh/kg, which the team says is 83 percent higher than current state-of-the-art solid-state batteries with organic cathodes.

“We are developing low-cost, earth-abundant, cobalt-free organic-based cathode materials for a solid-state battery that will no longer require scarce transition metals found in mines,” says Yao. “This research is a step forward in increasing EV battery energy density using this more sustainable alternative.”

Nick Lavars

 

By: Nick Lavars

 

Source: Organic-based EV battery turns to ethanol for a boost in energy density

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Millions of Electric Cars are Coming What Happens To All The Dead Batteries

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The battery pack of a Tesla Model S is a feat of intricate engineering. Thousands of cylindrical cells with components sourced from around the world transform lithium and electrons into enough energy to propel the car hundreds of kilometers, again and again, without tailpipe emissions. But when the battery comes to the end of its life, its green benefits fade.

If it ends up in a landfill, its cells can release problematic toxins, including heavy metals. And recycling the battery can be a hazardous business, warns materials scientist Dana Thompson of the University of Leicester. Cut too deep into a Tesla cell, or in the wrong place, and it can short-circuit, combust, and release toxic fume.

That’s just one of the many problems confronting researchers, including Thompson, who are trying to tackle an emerging problem: how to recycle the millions of electric vehicle (EV) batteries that manufacturers expect to produce over the next few decades. Current EV batteries “are really not designed to be recycled,” says Thompson, a research fellow at the Faraday Institution, a research center focused on battery issues in the United Kingdom.

That wasn’t much of a problem when EVs were rare. But now the technology is taking off. Several carmakers have said they plan to phase out combustion engines within a few decades, and industry analysts predict at least 145 million EVs will be on the road by 2030, up from just 11 million last year. “People are starting to realize this is an issue,” Thompson says.

Governments are inching toward requiring some level of recycling. In 2018, China imposed new rules aimed at promoting the reuse of EV battery components. The European Union is expected to finalize its first requirements this year. In the United States, the federal government has yet to advance recycling mandates, but several states, including California—the nation’s largest car market—are exploring setting their own rules.

Complying won’t be easy. Batteries differ widely in chemistry and construction, which makes it difficult to create efficient recycling systems. And the cells are often held together with tough glues that make them difficult to take apart. That has contributed to an economic obstacle: It’s often cheaper for batterymakers to buy freshly mined metals than to use recycled materials.

Better recycling methods would not only prevent pollution, researchers note, but also help governments boost their economic and national security by increasing supplies of key battery metals that are controlled by one or a few nations. “On the one side, [disposing of EV batteries] is a waste management problem. And on the other side, it’s an opportunity for producing a sustainable secondary stream of critical materials,” says Gavin Harper, a University of Birmingham researcher who studies EV policy issues.

To jump-start recycling, governments and industry are putting money into an array of research initiatives. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has pumped some $15 million into a ReCell Center to coordinate studies by scientists in academia, industry, and at government laboratories. The United Kingdom has backed the ReLiB project, a multi-institution effort. As the EV industry ramps up, the need for progress is becoming urgent, says Linda Gaines, who works on battery recycling at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory. “The sooner we can get everything moving,” she says, “the better.

Now, recyclers primarily target metals in the cathode, such as cobalt and nickel, that fetch high prices. (Lithium and graphite are too cheap for recycling to be economical.) But because of the small quantities, the metals are like needles in a haystack: hard to find and recover.

To extract those needles, recyclers rely on two techniques, known as pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy. The more common is pyrometallurgy, in which recyclers first mechanically shred the cell and then burn it, leaving a charred mass of plastic, metals, and glues. At that point, they can use several methods to extract the metals, including further burning. “Pyromet is essentially treating the battery as if it were an ore” straight from a mine, Gaines says. Hydrometallurgy, in contrast, involves dunking battery materials in pools of acid, producing a metal-laden soup. Sometimes the two methods are combined.

Each has advantages and downsides. Pyrometallurgy, for example, doesn’t require the recycler to know the battery’s design or composition, or even whether it is completely discharged, in order to move ahead safely. But it is energy intensive. Hydrometallurgy can extract materials not easily obtained through burning, but it can involve chemicals that pose health risks.

And recovering the desired elements from the chemical soup can be difficult, although researchers are experimenting with compounds that promise to dissolve certain battery metals but leave others in a solid form, making them easier to recover. For example, Thompson has identified one candidate, a mixture of acids and bases called a deep eutectic solvent, that dissolves everything but nickel.

Both processes produce extensive waste and emit greenhouse gases, studies have found. And the business model can be shaky: Most operations depend on selling recovered cobalt to stay in business, but batterymakers are trying to shift away from that relatively expensive metal. If that happens, recyclers could be left trying to sell piles of “dirt,” says materials scientist Rebecca Ciez of Purdue University.

The ideal is direct recycling, which would keep the cathode mixture intact. That’s attractive to batterymakers because recycled cathodes wouldn’t require heavy processing, Gaines notes (although manufacturers might still have to revitalize cathodes by adding small amounts of lithium). “So if you’re thinking circular economy, [direct recycling] is a smaller circle than pyromet or hydromet.”

In direct recycling, workers would first vacuum away the electrolyte and shred battery cells. Then, they would remove binders with heat or solvents, and use a flotation technique to separate anode and cathode materials. At this point, the cathode material resembles baby powder.

So far, direct recycling experiments have only focused on single cells and yielded just tens of grams of cathode powders. But researchers at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory have built economic models showing the technique could, if scaled up under the right conditions, be viable in the future.

To realize direct recycling, however, batterymakers, recyclers, and researchers need to sort out a host of issues. One is making sure manufacturers label their batteries, so recyclers know what kind of cell they are dealing with—and whether the cathode metals have any value. Given the rapidly changing battery market, Gaines notes, cathodes manufactured today might not be able to find a future buyer. Recyclers would be “recovering a dinosaur. No one will want the product.”

Another challenge is efficiently cracking open EV batteries. Nissan’s rectangular Leaf battery module can take 2 hours to dismantle. Tesla’s cells are unique not only for their cylindrical shape, but also for the almost indestructible polyurethane cement that holds them together.

Engineers might be able to build robots that could speed battery disassembly, but sticky issues remain even after you get inside the cell, researchers note. That’s because more glues are used to hold the anodes, cathodes, and other components in place. One solvent that recyclers use to dissolve cathode binders is so toxic that the European Union has introduced restrictions on its use, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined last year that it poses an “unreasonable risk” to workers.“In terms of economics, you’ve got to disassemble … [and] if you want to disassemble, then you’ve got to get rid of glues,” says Andrew Abbott, a chemist at the University of Leicester and Thompson’s adviser.

To ease the process, Thompson and other researchers are urging EV- and batterymakers to start designing their products with recycling in mind. The ideal battery, Abbott says, would be like a Christmas cracker, a U.K. holiday gift that pops open when the recipient pulls at each end, revealing candy or a message. As an example, he points to the Blade Battery, a lithium ferrophosphate battery released last year by BYD, a Chinese EV-maker. Its pack does away with the module component, instead storing flat cells directly inside. The cells can be removed easily by hand, without fighting with wires and glues.

The Blade Battery emerged after China in 2018 began to make EV manufacturers responsible for ensuring batteries are recycled. The country now recycles more lithium-ion batteries than the rest of the world combined, using mostly pyro- and hydrometallurgical methods.

Nations moving to adopt similar policies face some thorny questions. One, Thompson says, is who should bear primary responsibility for making recycling happen. “Is it my responsibility because I bought [an EV] or is it the manufacturer’s responsibility because they made it and they’re selling it?” In the European Union, one answer could come later this year, when officials release the continent’s first rule. And next year a panel of experts created by the state of California is expected to weigh in with recommendations that could have a big influence over any U.S. policy.

Recycling researchers, meanwhile, say effective battery recycling will require more than just technological advances. The high cost of transporting combustible items long distances or across borders can discourage recycling. As a result, placing recycling centers in the right places could have a “massive impact,” Harper says. “But there’s going to be a real challenge in systems integration and bringing all these different bits of research together.”

There’s little time to waste, Abbott says. “What you don’t want is 10 years’ worth of production of a cell that is absolutely impossible to pull apart,” he says. “It’s not happening yet—but people are shouting and worried it will happen.

By Ian Morse

Source: Millions of electric cars are coming. What happens to all the dead batteries? | Science | AAAS

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References

Best, Paul (19 November 2020). “GM doubles down on commitment to electric vehicles, increases spending to $27B”. FOXBusiness. Retrieved 20 November 2020.

How This Company Has Beaten Tesla With The World’s First Autonomous Electric Truck

When asked which company was the first creating an autonomous electric freight truck, most people will be wrong. And when asked which company was the first creating an autonomous electric truck that is allowed to drive on a public road, most people will be wrong too. It is not Tesla, it is not Alphabet’s Waymo, Uber, or Lyft, and it is not any of the big car or truck manufacturers.

It is Einride (pronounced as “n-ride”), a Swedish startup that was founded in 2016. I spoke to 29-year-old, Forbes 30 Under 30 listed co-founder and CMO of Einride, Linnéa Kornehed to find out how they have done this.

Some Facts About Einride

Founded in 2016, Einride has grown to around 100 people today, and has raised a total of $41M of funding. Nice for a startup, but totally incomparable to the many billions that all the large companies above have invested in electric and autonomous driving. And yet, it is this startup that has beaten all of them in getting its first truck on the road, or “Pod” as Einride likes to call them. As Kornehed explains, “on the day after Elon Musk announced the launch of the Tesla Semi, we already launched our Pod.“

If you aren’t impressed by that already, here are some more facts about Einride:

  • Named to Fast Company’s prestigious annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2021 in the Transportation category
  • Winner of the 2020 Edison Awards for Innovations and Innovators
  • Winner of the European Startup Prize for Mobility, a EU-founded Acceleration and Investment Programed for sustainable mobility startups
  • Listed is CB Insights Game Changers 2020 as one of the 36 startups that could change the world
  • Featured on 2020 Global Cleantech 100-list
  • First place in “Sustainable Transport” and “People’s Choice Award”, in the E-prize contest by energy company E.ON. and Veckans Affärer
  • Exclusive member of the World Economic Forum, Shaping the future of Mobility

Further evidence of their strength are the many brands that have already teamed up with Einride, including Coca-Cola, Lidl, Oatly, and Ericsson, and the fact that they are the first to set a record for an autonomous electric freight vehicle at the Top Gear racing track (see picture and watch here).

 Einride is not an ordinary truck manufacturer. It does not produce their Pod’s, nor are their Pod’s for sale. Similar to a company like Apple, Einride is in charge of the design, technology, and branding of their trucks, as well as the control of the complete chain to which they outsource production, assembly and logistics. But most important is its software platform. As Kornehed explains, “at its core, Einride is primarily a software company. It is our platform that makes the difference.”

Einride has adopted at Transportation as a Service (TaaS) model. This means that, as a customer, you don’t buy their products, but you subscribe to a monthly service. In other words, you buy transport, rather than a vehicle. The reason for adopting this innovative business model lies in the specific characteristics of autonomous and electric driving.

Kornehed: “both autonomous and electric driving require careful and systematic planning. This can best be done at the fleet level so that there is an overall planning that is efficient, safe, and that makes best use of the range and charging possibilities of the vehicles.” Through their TaaS model, software platform, and “control room,” Einride can plan much more efficiently than individual transportation companies would be able to do—and thereby help them save money and reduce emissions.

Why and Where Next?

When asked why Kornehed joined Einride and what the company’s drive is, there is no doubt: climate change. As Kornehed continues, “road freight transport is responsible for 7% of global greenhouse emissions. And the volume of shipped goods is growing at a 3-4% rate every year.” Electric, autonomous trucks, according to Einride, could transform road freight transport as we know it by reducing CO2-emissions by 90%. Furthermore, it could also lower operating costs by 60% and radically improve road safety.

When asked whether less transportation would not be a better solution, Kornehed responds, “logistics and transportation are so important in today’s global economy. We don’t want to let that go. The same for traveling, which is great. We should be able to keep all of that, but in a responsible, sustainable way.”

The company wants to set an example and show that the transformation to electric, autonomous freight transportation is within reach. As they show, the technology is there and the legal obstacles can be overcome. Admittedly, their current public road permit is very limited and restricted to a small section of one public road in Sweden. But it means the beginning is there, even in Europe where especially the legal side is a challenge.

Looking forward, Einride’s next steps are starting their operations in the US and expanding further in Europe. And, as Kornehed closes, “we hope to show people and businesses that it is possible to make a change. But change doesn’t happen by itself. By achieving all that we have achieved in just five years with our startup, we hope to inspire others to take their own sustainability initiatives.”

I help companies discover, formulate and execute their future plans, so that they will realize their ambitions in a complex and uncertain world. My drive is to bring people and companies to the next level by offering strategic guidance and training. I wrote “Strategy Consulting,” “No More Bananas,” and “The Strategy Handbook.” Reach out to me via jeroenkraaijenbrink.com,  LinkedIn or jk@kraaijenbrink.com

Source: How This Company Has Beaten Tesla With The World’s First Autonomous Electric Truck

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