30/08/2019

Building a battery value chain calls for a strategic approach from Europe

The growing popularity of electric cars is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from driving, but there is still a lot to be done across the battery value chain.

Katri Kauppila
Sustainability and Communications Manager, Finnish Minerals Group

The transport sector is currently experiencing an exciting transformation: a surge in the number of new plug-in electric car models on the European market is projected as early as next year. This will give consumers more choice and a better chance of finding an affordable solution for their needs.

The transformation is driven by, among other things, the EU’s carbon dioxide emission limits for new cars and vans, which are leading car manufacturers to develop electric cars alongside other types of cars.

A major change with major opportunities

The biggest car manufacturing countries in Europe at the moment are Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK, and this is unlikely to change. However, the batteries used in electric cars open up new opportunities for countries that are interested in high technology, such as Finland.

The European Commission estimates the annual market potential of the European battery value chain to exceed EUR 250 billion in a few years’ time. Only a couple of per cent of the world’s battery cell production currently takes place in Europe, and the share of cell components such as cathodes and anodes is even lower.

Finland has more to offer than just raw materials

Finland already has an established industry in many of the phases of the battery value chain as well as increasing interest in the production of core components such as precursors, cathodes and battery cells.

Affordable, emission-free energy, state-of-the-art R&D and long experience in metal processing, for example, are sources of our competitive edge. On global market, high environmental and occupational safety standards of the Finnish industry are also worth noting.

Towards a sustainable battery value chain

Major shifts such as the increasing use of electric cars and the building of a battery value chain are – and should be – discussed. Constructive debate is necessary in order to ensure the production is sustainable financially, socially and environmentally, both in Finland and across the EU.

Despite our current dependency on battery cell imports, the European Commission sees potential for the entire continent and cites the battery and energy storage sector as a good example of an industry where it is possible for Europe to promote both eco-friendliness and competitiveness, grow sustainably and create new jobs.

Lower greenhouse gas emissions

Approximately one quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions are currently attributable to transport, and the contribution of private cars is considerable. While alternatives such as train travel and online meetings are good ways to reduce driving, cars and the European car industry also have a role to play in the future. It is therefore important to also gradually reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cars.

Many motorists are still hesitant about electric cars due to their high prices, the currently underdeveloped charging infrastructure and the limited availability of used electric cars. From the perspective of the car manufacturing industry, building a European battery value chain and investing in technological development are crucial.

These are not easy challenges to overcome, but every step forward brings us closer to cleaner transport.

 

Further reading:

The battery value chain and electrification of transport are effective ways of curbing CO2 emission