Electric carmakers must make ‘ethical battery’: Amnesty

The electric vehicle industry needs to “make the world’s first completely ethical battery with five years,” human rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Thursday. The London-based organization accused electric automakers of failing to curb human rights abuses, including child labor, linked to the mining of key minerals needed for batteries.

“Finding effective solutions to the climate crisis is an absolute imperative, and electric cars have an important role to play in this,” Amnesty International chief Kumi Naidoo said. “But without radical changes, the batteries which power green vehicles will continue to be tainted by human rights abuses.”

Read more: Racing towards the unknown, but in an electric car

“People or planet”

Electric car demand is expected to skyrocket, increasing by “more than thirtyfold by 2030,” according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. As such, demand for lithium — a key component in electronics — is expected to increase dramatically over the next decade.

But rights groups have accused electronics manufacturers and electric carmakers of failing to publicly report their products’ mineral supply chains, saying the industry is often implicated in human rights abuses committed in mines, including in Argentina and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Companies such as Apple, BMW, Daimler and Renault have published data about their supply chains since 2016. Amnesty International has called on more companies to do the same as they seek to transition the car industry into a more climate-friendly sector.

“Companies who overlook human rights concerns as they clean up their energy sources are presenting their customers with a false choice; people or planet,” said Naidoo. “This approach is gravely flawed and will not deliver the sustainable changes we need to save humanity from climate devastation.”

Read more: Germany to invest €58 billion in electric, autonomous cars

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  • Battery cell production: Is Germany too late to the party?

    Northvolt’s mammoth project

    Headed by a former Tesla executive, Swedish company Northvolt aims to build Europe’s biggest lithium-ion battery factory, producing 32 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of battery cells a year by 2023. The $4-billion project was granted a loan from the EU and will be built in cooperation with German industrial giant Siemens. Northvolt is carmaker BMW’s preferred partner after production starts in 2020.

  • Battery cell production: Is Germany too late to the party?

    Tesla head start Germany

    US electric car pioneer Tesla, which sources its cells and batteries from its own Gigafactory, has plans to build three more such factories to accompany its first in the Nevada desert (pictured). CEO Elon Musk favors Germany as the location for its European factory. Its Germany-based Grohmann Automation division specializes in manufacturing systems for battery plants, giving Tesla a head start.

  • Battery cell production: Is Germany too late to the party?

    CATL thinking big in Thuringia

    The chairman of Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), Robin Zeng, announced plans in July to build its first battery cell production site in the eastern German state of Thuringia. The factory in Erfurt will have a capacity of 14 GWh by 2022, with carmaker BMW to source €1.5 billion worth of cells from it. China’s biggest battery maker plans to create 600 new jobs there in research and elsewhere.

  • Battery cell production: Is Germany too late to the party?

    GSR Capital buys Nissan best-seller

    Chinese investment firm GSR Capital last year bought Nissan Motor’s battery business Automotive Energy Supply Corp (AESC), including battery plants in Japan, the US and Britain. AESC offers cells and modules, and its battery packs (pictured) power the world’s best-selling electric car, the Nissan Leaf. Under GSR management, AESC will expand in the UK, hoping to win over more European carmakers.

  • Battery cell production: Is Germany too late to the party?

    Priced Eastern locations

    Countries in Eastern Europe appear to be favored by battery makers. Samsung SDI President Jun Young-hyun (left) and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban (center) in May opened a new battery plant in Göd. The Koreans don’t make cells in Hungary, but others will. Japan’s GS Yuasa in Miskolc, China’s SK Innovations in Komarom (launch 2020) and LG Chem in Wroclaw, Poland (launch 2019 with a capacity of 4 Gwh).

  • Battery cell production: Is Germany too late to the party?

    Carmakers outsourcing

    German carmakers are shunning the risk of producing battery cells of their own, relying primarily on cells made in Asia, which some of them — like Daimler in Kamenz, eastern Germany — assemble into battery packs. The luxury carmaker will source cells for its entire EQ electric car model range, launching in 2020, from SK Innovations and LG Chem.

  • Battery cell production: Is Germany too late to the party?

    Volkswagen mulls cell production

    Germany’s Volkswagen — the world’s largest carmaker by sales — is still weighing options. One being cell production of its own at its plant in Salzgitter, Germany. Another alternative to be considered by an electric vehicle strategy meeting of the board on November 16 is an alliance with South Korean cell maker SK Innovation.

  • Battery cell production: Is Germany too late to the party?

    Sober-minded calculations

    Meanwhile, Germany’s biggest automotive supplier, Bosch, dropped plans to produce battery cells, saying the investment required would be too risky. “Given dynamic external market forces that can only be predicted with difficulty, it’s unclear whether this investment would pay off,” the firm said, after calculating it would have to invest €20 billion to secure a market share of 20 percent.

  • Battery cell production: Is Germany too late to the party?

    TerraE hung out to dry

    German efforts to establish cell production suffered a new setback in October, when TerraE — a consortium of 20 companies — failed. None of the businesses named, including Varta Microbattery Systems, Ford and StreetScooter, eventually stepped foward to fund the project. Launched in 2017, the idea was to build two foundries for 34 Gwh capacity by 2028, rivaling Tesla’s Gigafactory.

  • Battery cell production: Is Germany too late to the party?

    Brussels powering ahead

    Fearing the EU auto industry could be left behind in the race, the bloc’s energy commissioner, Maros Sefcovic, has launched a “Battery Alliance,” offering billions of euros to fund cell manufacturing and research. Germany’s newest drive is part of it. Sefcovic believes car making in Europe will be impossible “if you don’t master the skills, the innovation and the research linked to batteries.”

    Author: Uwe Hessler

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