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The EU’s EV battery ambitions are at stake

The EU threatens to fall short of its ambition to become a global superpower in EV battery production report warns the European Court of Auditors (ECA).

While the union’s industrial policy on batteries has been effectively promoted in recent years, the bloc still faces three major challenges: limited access to raw materials, uncertainty as to whether battery production will reach required levels, as well as insufficient and uncoordinated funding.

According to the ECA, almost 20% of new cars registered in the block in 2021 had a power outlet. Demand is expected to increase further with 30 million zero- or low-emission vehicles by 2030.

The report finds that EU battery production capacity could increase from 44 GWh in 2020 to 1,200 GWh in 2030, which would generate up to 16 million EVs powered by 75 kWh batteries.

However, the projected capacity remains subject to significant risks, such as increases in production costs, delays in plant operation and the possibility that battery manufacturers will relocate production to regions with more attractive financial incentives.

But the main obstacle is the shortage of raw materials, for which the EU is heavily dependent on a few countries with social, environmental and geopolitical risks, such as China and the Democratic Republic of Congo. On average, the block imports 78% of the primary raw materials needed for batteries: nickel, cobalt, lithium, manganese and, of course, graphite. The dependency reaches 100% for refined lithium.

While several EU and national funding streams support new battery research and manufacturing projects, the Commission lacks a process to consolidate investments and thus gain a clear overview. This creates hurdles to ensure that support is sufficiently coordinated and focused.

To ensure that the EU can exploit the potential of battery development in the clean energy transition and its competitiveness in the EV sector, the ECA stresses that Brussels needs to step up its efforts. It recommends securing access to raw materials, strengthening monitoring with up-to-date data and ensuring that financial support is coordinated and distributed equally.

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