As Cop 28 opened yesterday in Dubai, the replacement of heat engine cars with cars with electric engines was presented to us as a miracle solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that will enable Europe 27 to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050. But until When will we have enough copper and other metals like cobalt, lithium and nickel to build hundreds of millions of electric cars in the world by 2050? How will the prices of these raw materials change in the coming decades as speculation changes based on the ability of supply to meet demand?
At the beginning of 2021, a ton of lithium cost $7,000, before exceeding $89,000 at the beginning of 2023. Then, it returned to $20,000 in late summer. The same was observed for nickel, which went from under $15,000 in 2021 to over $45,000 a tonne in early 2022, before falling to $18,656 in late summer 2023. Just as the electric car market was not very strong . as expected in 2023, battery manufacturers reduced their stocks of raw materials, which was enough to reduce the price of lithium and nickel. But we think that these prices may rise in the context of the general and rapid conversion of electric vehicles in Europe and other developed countries in the coming years.
Three production sites for Citroën’s “ë-C3 city car”.
We learned a few weeks ago that the Citroën C3 – whose sales of models with a hot engine have reached 5.6 million units since its release in 2002 – will soon be an electric model that will take the name. “citizen ë-C3”. The Stellantis company informs us that this electric city car will be sold from €23,000, including all taxes, excluding bonuses. The battery will allow a range of 320 km and will be built in China. According to information reported in “Les Echos” on October 18, this information « ë-C3 » policy “assembled in Slovakia at the Trnava plant. It will replace the Peugeot e-208 on assembly lines that arrived in Spain this summer. The 83 kilowatt (113 horsepower) electric motor, on the other hand, will be manufactured in France, at the Tremery site, around and Reims.
This will put more trucks on the road to transport engines made in France to an assembly plant in Slovakia while batteries arrive there from China. After assembly, these vehicles will be trucked to be sold in Europe and France where the C3 has a strong reputation. With this carbon footprint of the future already added that of the advertisements that Stellantis and other car brands make for electric cars, each company wants to take new market shares, to the detriment of its competitors. We can question, in this context, the importance of the ecological bonus paid by our taxes which we are told can reduce the final price of the “ë-C3 city car” to between €16,300 and €18,300 instead of €23,000.
There is talk of reaching 100% sales of new electric vehicles in EU member states in 2035 compared to 15% currently. Assuming that this figure is reached, it tells us nothing about the evolution of the used car market, sales of which are currently increasing significantly for those with a diesel engine. Similarly, we think that Europe will continue to sell the majority of cars and trucks with petrol engines in Africa following their withdrawal from the market in the European region.
Europe and the “specificity of each energy mix”
We also learned that the member states of the European Union decided, on October 16, to “Defend the abandonment of oil during Cop 28” in Dubai between November 30 and December 12. At least that’s what the 27 environment ministers who met that day in Luxembourg promised. To try to give credibility to this concept, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, our minister in charge of the Ecological Transition, specifically announced: “The article recognizes the specificity of each energy combination, that is, for France, the place of nuclear power, which is a new and important step”.
On this issue, as on a few others, the 27th Europe therefore works according to the principle of “Spanish guest house”, where everyone eats what they brought. The share of nuclear power in the electricity production of Europe 27 is only 20% and this average owes a lot to France with almost 70% of its electricity of nuclear origin. As renewable energies are short-lived, the share of fossil fuels in Europe 27 is currently 38.6%. Therefore, we think that the role of coal and gas will continue to be important for a long time in several member countries of the Union to produce this electricity, the demand of which will increase rapidly with the growth of the number of electric vehicles.
It will be a bumpy journey to achieve zero carbon in 2050.
A German counterexample that should not be copied
Germany recently shut down its last nuclear power plants. Therefore, the share of coal and lignite continues to increase in the supply of power plants in the Rhine. In 2022, 45.5% of our neighbor Germany’s electricity production came from fossil fuels, including 20.1% from lignite, 11.3% from coal, 13.3% from imported gas, including bulk gas. 22% of Germany’s electricity production came from wind turbines, 10.4% from solar panels, only 2.9% from hydropower and 1% from waste. But 7.4% came from biomass, which is methanization on livestock farms. As a result, half of the food corn harvested in Germany is thrown directly into manure pits to stimulate the production of gas that is converted into electricity for sale on the Internet. Since this activity is more profitable than cow’s milk, speculation on agricultural land has caused the price of a hectare to double in less than ten years!
So this is not the best way to generate energy. On the other hand, it is in danger of bringing back the food freedom of the country and its people in this 21st century marked by global warming. Clearly, the contradictions of the capitalist production system do not recommend a reduction in CO2 emissions in preparation for the upcoming Cop 28 in Dubai.