Europe’s Heavy Electric Car Incentives Could Bring Lithium Prices Out Of The Pits

Illustration for article titled Europe’s Heavy Electric Car Incentives Could Bring Lithium Prices Out Of The Pits
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Europe is really pushing EVs and that should bring up lithium prices, Hyundai’s new autonomous car partner just got a strange new name, GM’s global CFO is out, and China sales are soaring. All that and more in The Morning Shift for August 11, 2020.

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1st Gear: Europe’s Heavy Electric Car Incentives Are Getting Serious 

Lithium prices have been down for a while, but that’s about to change thanks, in part, to Europe’s heavy EV incentives, as Bloomberg reports:

Despite mining delays as well as restarts of some auto plants following coronavirus lockdowns, prices for the metal used in electric-vehicle batteries remain at multiyear lows. But the head of Albemarle’s lithium business says hefty incentives for consumers to buy EVs in Europe, as well as changes to encourage carmakers to build greener cars globally will help lithium demand.

[...]

Europe outpaces other regions in pushing green policy in response to Covid-19, according to BloombergNEF analyst Victoria Cuming. “Its states have approved $43 billion to renewables, electric vehicles and other lower-carbon technologies, plus $18 billion to carbon-intensive sectors but with climate-related strings attached,” Cuming said in a July report.

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Europe’s incentives (you may have heard about the Renault Zoe, which is selling extremely well in Europe, and can actually be leased in Germany for free) aren’t the only factors in cranking up lithium prices. China is continuing to incentivize EV adoption, too. From Bloomberg:

“It’s really a European story and a regulatory story,” Albemarle’s Eric Norris said in an interview. “And in China they’ve extended the subsidies out a couple of years instead of having the program expire — that was the original plan — so China secondarily will be a contributor.”

2nd Gear: Car Sales In China Are Soaring

It’s been interesting to look at the state of car sales as automakers began ramping up vehicle production after COVID shutdowns, and consumers have begun driving their cars more frequently as they go out-and-about more and more.

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For a while, worldwide vehicle sales were in the doldrums, including in China, the world’s biggest car market. But while North America and Europe have struggled to get back onto their feet, China’s car sales have surged. In fact, July’s sales eclipsed those of last July by 16 percent according to Reuters. While that’s not likely to be enough to bring 2020's total sales above those of 2019, it’s still a step in the right direction.

From Reuters:

Sales rose to 2.11 million vehicles in July but are still down 13 percent for the year to date at 12.37 million vehicles, according to wholesale sales data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).

Sales of trucks and other commercial vehicles, which constitute around a quarter of the market, surged 59 percent, driven by government investment in infrastructure as well as tougher emission rules introduced this year. Sales of passenger vehicles rose 8.5 percent.

The association expects auto sales to fall around 10 percent this year barring a second wave of virus infections, which could deepen the slide to around 20 percent.

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This lines up with last week’s forecast from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers that sales figures for July would be significantly higher than those of the same month last year.

3rd Gear: GM’s Global CFO Is Leaving The Company

GM just appointed an acting global chief financial officer, John Stapleton, to take the place of Dhivya Suryadevara, who is leaving the company to pursue other ventures.

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Apparently, Stapleton, who’s currently the CFO for North America, will keep the gig until GM can finish its search for a successor for Suryadevara. From GM’s press release:

General Motors today announced John Stapleton, GM North America chief financial officer, has been named acting global chief financial officer, effective Aug. 15. The appointment follows the resignation of Dhivya Suryadevara, executive vice president and CFO, who will leave the company for an external opportunity outside the automotive industry. GM will conduct an internal and external search for a successor.

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4th Gear: Hyundai Names Its Autonomous Vehicle Joint Venture “Motional”

Back in the fall of 2019, Hyundai partnered up with Aptiv, an auto parts supplier formerly known as Delphi, to develop autonomous vehicle technology. Specifically, the aim of the alliance was and is to bring SAE Level 4 and 5 technologies to the market, with Aptiv describing the details of the joint venture in its press release, writing:

The joint venture will advance the design, development and commercialization of SAE Level 4 and 5 autonomous technologies, furthering the partners’ leadership position in the global autonomous driving ecosystem. The joint venture will begin testing fully driverless systems in 2020 and have a production-ready autonomous driving platform available for robotaxi providers, fleet operators, and automotive manufacturers in 2022.

As part of the agreement, Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv will each have a 50 percent ownership stake in the joint venture, valued at a total of USD 4 billion. Aptiv will contribute its autonomous driving technology, intellectual property, and approximately 700 employees focused on the development of scalable autonomous driving solutions. Hyundai Motor Group affiliates — Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors and Hyundai Mobis — will collectively contribute USD 1.6 billion in cash at closing and USD 0.4 billion in vehicle engineering services, R&D resources, and access to intellectual property.

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Now we’ve learned that the partnership between Aptiv and Hyundai has a new name: “Motional.” Aptiv president and CEO Kevin Clark breaks down the new brand in a press release, which states:

Today our autonomous driving joint venture with Hyundai Motor Group announced its new name and brand identity: Motional.

Motional connects two words: motion and emotional. Motion speaks to the movement of driverless vehicles enabled by the company’s technology, supported by decades of experience moving the industry forward. Emotional evokes the company’s people-first approach and focus on building confidence in autonomous vehicles.

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It’s an odd name, but definitely not the strangest we’ve heard recently.

5th Gear: German Auto Workers Are Seeing Lower Wages

German wages, including those in the automotive industry, are down this last quarter as a result of work-hour reductions stemming from coronavirus complications. Reuters breaks it down:

Gross monthly earnings for full- and part-time workers in Germany fell 2.2% on average in the second quarter from a year ago, due mainly to the wide use of short-time work during the coronavirus crisis, the Federal Statistics Office said on Tuesday.

The hardest-hit sectors were hotels and hospitality, the auto sector and tour operators, it said.

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In case you were curious, the E.U. defines short-time work as “public programmes that allow firms experiencing economic difficulties to temporarily reduce the hours worked while providing their employees with income support from the State for the hours not worked.”

Reverse: 1956: Artist Jackson Pollock Dies In A Car Crash

From Encyclopedia Britannica:

American painter Jackson Pollock, a leading exponent of Abstract Expressionism who received great fame and serious recognition for his radical poured, or “drip,” technique, died this day in 1956 in an automobile accident.

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Neutral: Motional?

Motional or Stellantis?

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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DISCUSSION

markbt73
Mark Tucker

So the lithium market is depressed? How ironic.