18/09/2019

Chemical industry enables low-emission traffic

Batteries have long been the main aspect of development of electric cars. Chemistry and the chemical industry can make a difference in achieving smaller and lighter batteries.

Mika Aalto
Director General, Chemical Industry Federation of Finland

The IPCC report published in October reminded us of the progress and consequences of the climate change, and boosted climate debate and climate actions significantly. Traffic has been one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Promoting low-emission traffic has been one of the fastest-developing areas. A more long-term trend within this theme are bio-based traffic fuels, such as bioethanol and renewable diesel, as well as hydrogen-based solutions and electrification.

Growth curves through the roof

Car manufacturers are presently announcing astonishing plans for production numbers of electric cars and production curves are really going through the roof. Driving an electric car does not produce any tailpipe emissions to the environment, and electric cars therefore enable better air quality in big cities. The energy for charging the battery must be produced somewhere, of course, and the overall emissions depend on the energy production method used.

Batteries have long been one of the key development areas for electric cars. How could we achieve smaller and lighter batteries, capable of charging more electric energy? Here chemistry and the chemical industry can make a difference, and Finland can provide a lot of competence within this field.

Finland has a huge growth potential

As the number of electric cars grows, we need an immense amount of batteries and, therefore, battery chemicals and materials to manufacture them. We also need to develop the circular economy solutions for used batteries and the materials they contain. Finland has a huge potential in developing this entire value chain. Finland has rich ore and mineral resources, we know how to use energy and materials efficiently and to produce top quality battery chemicals and materials. Within research, we have high-level expertise both in production and recycling.

On top of this, we have a generally stable society, safe and secure operating conditions, and a well-functioning infrastructure.

Many of the prerequisites for a battery value chain success story are met. What else do we need in order to make it happen? We need Government actions to promote and encourage new investments. The most important of these include the appropriate price, low emissions and service security of energy needed by the industry. We also need innovation funding and piloting and demonstration projects for new types of processes, as well as public risk-sharing of first-of-a-kind processes, that is, processes implemented for the first time in commercial scale.

We can say chemistry is the most creative sector in the world. It plays a big role in the electrification of passenger cars as well. Chemistry is a part of a good life, and a key aspect in developing materials needed for the electrification and implementing the development work into industrial-scale production.