from the bigger-better-bupkis dept
In most people’s heads, electric vehicles are going to very quickly supplant gas-powered vehicles in the next few years, resulting in massive disruption and a massive boost to climate change mitigation. But there’s trouble in paradise: experts continue to warn that we lack the elements and supply chain necessary to ramp up production of electric vehicles at the scale that exists in everybody’s imagination.
Oddly, this is usually some kind of weird footnote in EV discourse. But last week, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe clearly pointed out that we’re facing a massive battery shortage (warning: paywall) as companies engage in a mad dash to lock down supplies of cobalt, lithium, battery-grade graphite, and nickel needed for batteries:
“All the world’s cell production combined represents well under 10% of what we will need in 10 years,” Scaringe noted. “Meaning, 90% to 95% of the supply chain does not exist.”
I imagine that as a smaller player, Scaringe is nervous about all the bigger players engaged in a mad dash to lock down already limited resources, and his call could be construed as a call for some government help. Though that doesn’t make his concerns any less true. The scale of the challenge is fairly massive:
Battery evolution will continue and engineering may lift some of this strain in time, but it’s pretty clear that the speedy EV timeline that exists in many people’s heads isn’t realistic. Such restrictions should also probably result in a re-assesment of what kind of vehicles get build priority, since you can build a dozen smaller vehicles with the components and minerals needed to build one Hummer EV:
This being America, the demand side of the equation isn’t likely to want to meaningfully integrate those considerations.
Granted this is occurring at the same time as folks are finally realizing the massive weight of some of these much larger EVs is going to pose a notable safety threat on the road to smaller vehicles, incentivizing Americans who already like big stuff to prioritize bigger EVs for family safety, therefore accelerating supply constraints.
Addressing that cycle will require more actual engineering innovation, and less… innovation performance art.