Monday, 2 May 2022

Energy chief Granholm touts $3B plan to boost EV batteries

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Continuing its push to dramatically boost sales of electric vehicles, the Biden administration on Monday announced $3.1 billion in funding to U.S. companies that make and recycle lithium-ion batteries.

The investments from last year’s $1 trillion infrastructure law are separate from an executive order President Joe Biden issued this spring, invoking the Defense Production Act boost production of lithium and other critical minerals used to power electric vehicles.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the new program will offer grants to companies that process or recycle battery components to increase domestic supplies of a market now dominated by China and other countries. The grants will help strengthen U.S. energy independence and support Biden’s goal to have electric vehicles make up half of all vehicles sales in America by 2030, she said.

Electric vehicles accounted for 4.2% of U.S. new vehicle sales in the first quarter of this year, according to according to Edmunds.com.

“Positioning the United States front and center in meeting the growing demand for advanced batteries is how we boost our competitiveness and electrify our transportation system,” Granholm said in a statement.

Granholm, a former Michigan governor, announced the battery initiative during a visit to her home state to highlight clean-energy provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure law Biden signed in November.

The grant program “will give our domestic supply chain the jolt it needs to become more secure and less reliant on other nations,” while creating good-paying jobs and reducing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

“We need a lot of batteries. And we want American workers making those batteries right here in America,” added Gina McCarthy, Biden’s climate adviser, at a separate briefing Monday at the White House.

The $3 billion will be allocated as grants to as many as 30 companies, officials said, and represents nearly half of $7 billion approved under the infrastructure law to improve the domestic battery supply chain.

Companies will be required to match grants on a 50-50 basis, with a minimum $50 million investment, the Energy Department said. The money will go to companies that can create new, retrofitted or expanded processing facilities as well as battery recycling programs, the department said.

The focus on battery processing and recycling is part of a broader effort by Biden to shift the country away from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles and combat climate change.

A March 31 executive order intended to increase mining of lithium and other critical minerals does not waive or suspend existing environmental and labor standards, the White House said. Nor does it address the chief hurdle to increased domestic mining: the years-long process needed to obtain a federal permit for a new mine.

Even so, the mining industry and supporters in Congress cheered Biden’s use of the Defense Production Act.

Rich Nolan, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, called it a historic step by the White House to “recognize the critical importance of minerals and push to electrify the car industry.″

But unless the administration also moves to speed approvals of new hardrock mines, “we risk feeding the minerals dominance of geopolitical rivals″ such as China and Russia, Nolan said.

As of March 31, more than 2.5 million plug-in electric vehicles have been sold in America, with more than 800,000 of those having been sold since Biden took office, the Energy Department said. Battery costs have fallen more than 90% since 2008, while performance has increased.

“Responsible and sustainable domestic sourcing of the critical materials used to make lithium-ion batteries — such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite — will help avoid or mitigate supply chain disruptions and accelerate battery production in America to meet this demand and support the adoption of electric vehicles,” the department said in a statement.

“The future of mobility is electric,” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said in a statement. The Energy Department initiative “could help to ensure Michigan remains on the forefront of innovation by shoring up our supply chains for advanced battery technologies necessary to deploy the next all-electric fleet,” Peters added.

The infrastructure law should decrease U.S. dependence on foreign producers such as China for these critical technologies “and help our automakers meet the growing demand for cleaner, safer cars,” Peters said.

___

Associated Press writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Monday, 25 April 2022

GM reveals first images of the EV Chevy Corvette


2020 Corvette Steering Wheel


The great American sports car is going electric. General Motors President Mark Reuss shared the news this morning, and released the first images of the upcoming electric Chevrolet Corvette. He says the vehicle could be available for sale as soon as “early next year.” And the electrification of the Corvette is the least exciting part of the announcement: The video clearly shows the front tires are powered, meaning only one thing: The Corvette is going all-wheel drive.

Chevy appears to be building for an AWD future. Automotive rumors peg the unannounced, high-performance Corvette C8 Z06 to sport AWD, and the video here all but confirms the arrangement in the EV version, too. It appears that the EV Corvette will be based on the existing mid-engine Corvette platform, which leaves plenty of room in the front and back for motors on each axle. With internal combustion affairs, vehicles require significant retrofitting to make room for all-wheel drive’s extra driveshafts and differentials. With EVs, it just takes another motor and some computer programming.

According to Reuss, the electric Corvette utilizes GM’s Ultium platform, which is underpinning numerous upcoming GM EVs, including the Hummer EV, Silverado EV and Blazer EV.

General Motors has been quiet about replacing the Corvette’s small block with batteries and motors. The first murmurs of the vehicle came several years back when GM moved the Corvette team into EV building in Warren, Michigan. And today’s announcement doesn’t shed a lot of light onto the subject either. GM did not release expected price point, battery range or 0-60 mph times.

Corvette faithful knew this day was coming. The Corvette is the quintessential American sports car, and since nearly the beginning, a small block Chevy V8 has been its beating heart. An electric Corvette will, of course, lack the comforting rumble of a V8, but the electric motors will no doubt make up for it with explosive performance — especially if it comes equipped with motors on each axle.

Sunday, 24 April 2022

High gas prices pump up demand for electric vehicles

 

One way to avoid the pain at the pump is to never have to go there. Katie Mitchell bought an electric car in January, and says she's now saving hundreds of dollars a month by charging up instead of filling up.

When she watched gas prices skyrocket in recent months, she said she felt "lucky" and "grateful."

"It's one of the things that I give thanks for," she said of her decision.

CBS News poll found 59% of Americans would or might consider buying an electric vehicle. Those who would cited the environment and high gas prices as their top reasons.

But a lot of the electric models that automakers keep announcing are not yet available, and a looming battery shortage could pump the brakes even more. Tesla is the electric vehicle market leader, but the waiting list for its cars is several months long.

"People are begging for a better, less fuel intensive way to drive to be divorced of fuel pump prices, and yet finding any new car — let alone a model that's electric — is so hard right now," Brian Cooley, editor at large for CNET, told CBS News.

The CEO of electric vehicle automaker Rivian, which is struggling to deliver its new vehicles, warned this could be worse than the current chip shortage as demand for the materials inside the batteries — specifically lithium —  skyrockets.

The U.S. has just one lithium-producing mine in southern Nevada, providing less than 2% of the world's supply.


Wednesday, 6 April 2022

High gas prices increase demand for electric cars and charging stations

 

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Soaring prices at gas stations are driving up the demand for electric car purchases.

Drivers say more charging stations will be needed down the road.

Apps help electric car owners find charging stations during road trips.

Popular charging locations for locals and tourists include the Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta.

The Rosewood Miramar in Montecito also has a row of chargers for Tesla, and new ones appear ready to charge by the Bank of America on upper State Street.

There are also chargers at rest stops along the coast.

On weekends they often have to wait their turn in Goleta.

Nanny Navarro said, "The weekend it is packed here it is, it is hard to get a spot."

Her brother Giovanni Comin owns two types of electric cars and prefers his Tesla and Tesla charging station.

"The non Tesla charging is still as little more rudimentary, and kind of a little more difficult to get the hang of Tesla got it pretty  dialed," said Comin.

Charging usually takes less than half-an-hour, giving drivers enough time to pick up coffee or take out.

A full charge often costs less than a quarter tank of gas, but owners can be charged by the minute if they leave their car too long in a location that has drivers waiting.

Sabine Corsiglia drove to Goleta from the Bay Area on a single charge.

"I just plug in my destination and it gives me the closest time that I will need to get charged."

Some electric car owners are 

like walking or in this case driving advertisements


.There is no maintenance, no oil changes."

While he charges the car, he said he can use his steering wheel to play driving video games.

"It is fun for kids you know, or adults, there is a lot of stuff to do. You have a computer right in front of you."

Some drivers are able to use the money they savings on fuel to pay off their electric vehicles

We’re Not Even Close to EVs Being as Cheap as Gas Cars, Mercedes Says

 

Photo credit: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/Getty

The electric vehicle industry has seen a massive transformation over the last decade, in no small part thanks to massive reductions in the cost of large lithium-ion battery packs. Yet there’s still a significant initial cost penalty to a battery-electric vehicle over an internal combustion car. According to Mercedes’ Chief Technology Officer, that’s not going away anytime soon. In fact, EVs may not get much cheaper at all over the next few years.

“Coming to [a battery price of] 50 U.S. dollars per kilowatt, which would lead to comparable cost basis to an I.C.E. engine, I would say this is far out there,” Mercedes CTO Markus Schäfer told Road & Track. “I don’t see that with the chemistry that we have today.”

Photo credit: Nissan
Photo credit: Nissan

Reaching so-called “price parity,” Schäfer said, just isn’t possible with any current commercially available battery technology. The kind of affordable, high-density batteries required to make it possible either don’t exist or only exist in tightly-controlled lab settings. Even once we know which one will work, adapting it for the automotive industry—with its high volumes and extremely challenging durability requirements—will be a years-long process. While we wait for a breakthrough, Schäfer says they can’t promise that EVs will get any cheaper in the near term.

Photo credit: STR
Photo credit: STR

“It’s a crystal ball thing to answer. And it will very much depend on mining capacity [for raw materials] and the global ramp-up of EVs. So these are the two main factors,” he said. “But I would say, for quite a while we will see headwinds on the raw material side.”

While increasing demand for large battery packs has helped through manufacturing advancements and economies of scale, it’s this scale that is now posing a large challenge. Thanks to both the increasing popularity of EVs and continued growth in consumer electronics, the demand for lithium batteries is on pace to far outstrip the capacity of current rare-earth metal mines. Earth has more deposits of lithium, but bringing mines online is complicated and expensive. As of now, analysts don’t expect the lithium shortage to be over by mid-decade.

“So the anticipated decrease well below 100 US dollars or Euros per kilowatt, that might take longer,” Schäfer said. “The chemistry, honestly, if we’re staying with the ingredients we have today ... there’s not that breakthrough foreseeable.”


Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Starbucks, Volvo to pilot EV charging stations

 


Coffee giant Starbucks is partnering with Volvo Cars to install electric vehicle charging stations at Starbucks locations across five states.

The companies on Tuesday announced they are collaborating on a pilot program to install as many as 60 Volvo-branded, ChargePoint DC fast chargers at up to 15 Starbucks stores along a 1,350-mile route between Denver and Seattle, where Starbucks' headquarters is located.

The pilot is a test to understand the usage and potential scalability of EV charging stations at the coffee chains stores, as Starbucks looks to expand its roster of renewable energy and decarbonization projects to meet its goal to cut its emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

"Volvo Cars wants to give people the freedom to move and lower their impact on the environment," Anders Gustafsson, Senior Vice President Americas and President and CEO of Volvo Car USA, said in a statement. "Working with Starbucks we can do that by giving them enjoyable places to relax while their cars recharge."

The project includes plans to put a charging station about every 100 miles along the route, which Volvo notes is "well within the battery range of most electric vehicles."

Those who own Volvo EVs will be able to charge their vehicles for free while all other EV owners will have to pay a fee to use the stations.

According to Volvo, ChargePoint's fast chargers can charge a vehicle's battery from 20 percent to 90 percent in about 40 minutes.

The pilot is expected to kick off this summer and will be completed by the end of the year.

The partnership comes as the auto industry is making big investments to shift from traditional combustion engines to battery-powered EVs amid increasing pressure by governments and regulators to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.


Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Baidu and automaker Geely put nearly $400 million more into their electric car venture

 

BEIJING — Chinese tech company Baidu and auto manufacturer Geely are putting more money into the electric car venture Jidu that they partnered on just about a year ago.

Both companies announced Wednesday they are putting nearly $400 million into Jidu in a Series A financing round. The capital injection comes less than a year after Jidu was launched in March 2021 with $300 million in initial capital from undisclosed investors.

Baidu has majority ownership of Jidu, with a 55% share of the company, while Geely has a 45% stake, according to records accessed through Wind Information. Both companies declined to share how much each contributed to the latest funding round.

The money will fund research and development and mass production, according to Jidu.

Global dealmaking in electric vehicles has surged in the last two years as companies rush to develop cars that analysts expect will soon replace combustion-engine ones. The Chinese government has been particularly supportive of the domestic industry’s growth, helping spur the rise of many start-up.

Electric vehicle deals in China tripled in value to $6.61 billion in 2021 from $2.17 billion in 2020, according to Dealogic. Electric vehicle deals in the U.S. more than doubled to $924 million last year from $353 million in value in 2020, the data showed.

Baidu announced in January 2021 it planned to launch Jidu with Geely as a strategic partner and later named Xia Yiping, co-founder of bike sharing start-up Mobike, as CEO of the electric car company.

In 2010, China-based Geely acquired Swedish auto brand Volvo, which previously belonged to Ford Motor


Geely operates a number of electric vehicle brands — on its own or through joint ventures with Volvo — from Zeekr to the high-end Polestar.

Jidu’s first car is set to begin mass production and deliveries in 2023, according to Baidu.

Baidu’s venture into electric vehicles is part of CEO Robin Li’s push to diversify the company’s business away from advertising into new growth areas including autonomous driving and artificial intelligence.