EU wants battery autonomy, but first it needs energy-intensive graphite

Posted: February 23, 2020 by oldbrew in Batteries, Emissions, Energy, Travel
Tags: ,

Typical electric car set-up

Expensive energy-intensive processes are needed to make a key battery ingredient for electric vehicles. How does this make any sense at all? They talk about the factories needed ‘to meet homegrown demand’ – but where is it?

As Europe looks to declare its tech independence by becoming a leader in next-generation batteries, it will have to start by making its own graphite, says TechXplore.

The problem is, nearly all of it now comes from Asia, mainly China.

So France’s Carbone Savoie and Germany’s SGL Carbon, the only European firms deemed capable of taking up the challenge, have been corralled into an ambitious battery alliance launched by Brussels last year.

“Thank you for bringing us on board this ‘Airbus for batteries,’ though to be honest, we weren’t even on the passenger list,” Carbone Savoie’s chairman Bruno Gastinne told France’s deputy finance minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher on Thursday.

They were attending the ribbon-cutting for a new, more efficient carbon baking oven, a “brick cathedral” some five metres underground at its site in Venissieux, just south of Lyon in southeast France.

The 11 million euro ($11.9 million) investment will allow the company to double its carbon production, the first step for making the ultrapure synthetic graphite prized for batteries.

The carbon is then shipped to its factory at Notre-Dame de Briancon in the Alps, where nearby hydroelectric dams provide the intense electrical currents needed to turn it into graphite.

Carbone Savoie also says it has developed a new production technology that uses just half the energy required currently, and cuts waste levels in half.

“It will be less expensive and more efficient than Chinese graphite, while consuming less energy. The hard part is that we have to move quickly,” said Regis Paulus, the firm’s head of research and development.

“To catch up with the Chinese, we have to invest massively,” he said.

‘Can’t do it alone’

EU authorities in November unlocked a whopping 3.2 billion euros for the European Battery Alliance, hoping to attract an additional five billion euros in private money to build the factories needed to meet homegrown demand.

Automakers in particular are racing to shift to electric fleets, under growing pressure to cut carbon emissions and the reliance on fossil fuels.

Batteries make up around 40 percent of the value of an electric car, but are currently made by companies in South Korea, China and Japan.

Full report here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Is there such a thing as having a problem meeting electric car ‘demand’?

  2. Curious George says:

    This is like solving the New York horse manure problem (1894) by developing a horse food generating only 1/2 of manure.

  3. Graeme No.3 says:

    Chiefio had an article recently about making cheap carbon foam into graphene.

    [reply] OK, but that’s not graphite

  4. Phoenix44 says:

    Why do they need to catch up with the Chinese? Why not just buy it from them?

  5. Neil Hampshire says:

    It would appear that carbon is not the only problem

    Prof Richard Herrington, Head of Earth Sciences at Natural History Museum,
    wrote to the Climate Change Committee.

    To meet the UK electric vehicle targets we would need :-
    • just under TWO TIMES the current total annual WORLD cobalt production
    • three quarters the world’s lithium production
    • the entire world production of neodymium

    Where can we find all these resources?

  6. Coeur de Lion says:

    It’s not going to happen, so don’t worry. Instead, keep an amused eye on COP26 as it developes. I’m betting impoverished Guinea fields 400 of the 20,000 delegates again. We need a lot of the publicity for this event that we did not get on Madrid or Katowice. High ridiculousness quotient.

  7. markesommer says:

    Where is the electricity going to come from to charge these fantasy Euro batteries? Nuclear power or coal? Or perhaps wood fired power plants? It seems science education is lacking in the general population if politicians keep getting away with such baloney. The pollution from battery production is worse than that from the internal combustion engines that are replaced.

  8. oldbrew says:

    President and CEO of Nemaska Lithium steps down after bankruptcy filing
    24 February 2020

    Prices for lithium have been falling steadily due to oversupply from mine expansions and a fall off in EV purchases due to a cut in government subsidies for EVs in China.
    – – –
    So much for EV *demand*.

  9. oldbrew says:

    Follow that termite!
    – – –
    Termite mounds map path to low emissions future
    – Posted Today

    Hidden metal deposits needed to transition the world to low emission technologies can be discovered using metallic blue crusts in soils and on termite mounds as signposts, according to new research from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO.

    CSIRO’s study in the southern Pilbara region of WA used new advances in sample analysis to show how metallic blue crusts, known as manganese crusts, display unique zinc signatures that indicate the presence of other base metals in the surrounding area.
    – – –
    They didn’t mention the termite ‘problem’…

    Termites Emit 2Xs More CO2 Than Humans. Soil Emits 9Xs More. Termite Numbers, Soil Area Are Growing.

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