To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the European Commission and European Union member countries are developing the idea that the solution will mainly come from cars equipped with an electric motor. In order to accelerate the transition, the sale of new vehicles equipped with an internal combustion engine is planned to be banned in Europe 27 from 2035. However, we are particularly concerned about power cuts in the coming months as the reduction in gas imports from Russia they also reduce the production of controllable electricity that this fossil energy allowed in several member countries of the Union. As a result, Germany and other countries are increasingly using coal, while a massive shale gas import strategy from the United States is being implemented.
As it is necessary to make an arrow out of any wood, the Agency for the Environment and Energy Control (ADEME) invites the French who can heat it with firewood. Suddenly, the demand for firewood made up of logs and pellets could increase to 2.4 million tonnes in the winter of 2022-2023 from 1.8 million tonnes in the previous winter. Since June, the average price of firewood has increased by 20% and this is probably just the beginning. See the observations made in Figaro of 25 September by the timber merchant Gérard Fellous: “My producer informed me of the arrival of many newcomers who smelled the golden goose. At lumber auctions, they always buy at the highest price and distort the market.”
The race for innovation will spur speculation
What is happening with wood will also happen on a larger scale and in a more sustainable way with the sprint that companies in the automotive industry are already engaged in to have the raw materials to produce these cars equipped with electric motors and their batteries. In Les Échos of 25 September, Anne Feitz indicates that “Volkswagen and Mercedes signed agreements with Canada at the end of August to guarantee the supply of critical minerals from local producers (…) A few weeks earlier, Stellantis had placed a €50 million ticket for 8% of the company’s capital. Australian startup Vulcan, which wants to produce lithium in Europe from geothermal resources.” The article also cited Renault, which announced in June “a contract with the Moroccan mining group Managem for the supply of 5,000 tonnes of cobalt per year from 2025 for seven years”.
In the same newspaper, Étienne Goetz wrote that “According to the calculations of the French group Eramet, producer of nickel and soon to be lithium, by 2030 the demand for nickel will be multiplied by 2 to 4.8 million tons and by 6 to 2 million tons for lithium. Cobalt will increase from 130,000 tons to 500,000 tons (…) Between 2020 and 2050, the world will consume between 60% and 90% of copper resources. For nickel it’s about 60%, 80% for cobalt, 30% for lithium…”.
When the upload price increases by 50% in 6 weeks
It is easy to imagine that this increase in demand for rare metals will cause prices to rise. The electric car will be out of reach for people who will need a car to get to work. Especially since France cares little about promoting public transport. We can also ask ourselves how the price of electricity needed to recharge millions of batteries every day will evolve, in addition to the current consumption of homes and businesses. Furthermore, in this issue of Echoes, we also learned that the Allego fast charging network has increased its rates by 50% in less than six weeks, while Telsa’s currently costs 40% more than in July if you are without a subscription. and does not have a Telsa.
Beyond Europe, the race to produce cars equipped with an electric motor is global. Initially, the exploitation of fossil raw materials essential to its production will increase CO2 emissions. In a second step, we will still burn a lot of fossil fuels, including coal, in the world to produce enough electricity to power the engines of these cars. Especially since they will be in competition with other uses, including digital, which also sees its electricity consumption increase year after year.