Hyperdrive Daily: The Battle for Battery-Car Supremacy

Welcome to the Hyperdrive daily briefing, decoding the revolution reshaping the auto world, from EVs to self-driving cars and beyond.

News Briefs

  • Ford closes at almost five-year high on $30 billion EV plan.
  • Waymo’s former CFO joins electric-truck maker Rivian.
  • Bill headed to Senate floor includes up to $12,500 EV credits.

Nation Against Nation

The auto industry has been the backbone of Western economies for decades, providing millions of well-paid manufacturing jobs. Now that the combustion-engine era is fading, governments that have long had symbiotic relationships with the sector are jostling for position.

The long-time auto heavyweights — the U.S., Germany and Japan — are under pressure to defend their standing in a sector that’s rapidly electrifying. At the same time, countries that have done little or no carmaking are seeing an opening, and a chance to boost local industries by making electric vehicles.

Saudi Arabia, whose crude has fueled the auto industry, has hired advisers to explore establishing its own domestic EV maker, my colleagues Christoph Rauwald and William Wilkes reported last month. Abu Dhabi and Qatar, which also derive significant wealth from oil and gas, have invested in EV-related companies to diversify their income.

While this may not be Game of Thrones-like material, the geopolitical competition to dominate the electric car is nevertheless heating up. Joe Biden didn’t just publicly test drive Ford’s new electric pickup truck (free marketing!) last week; he also touted his $174 billion plan to make America’s auto industry fit for the future. His climate adviser told Bloomberg Television’s Emily Chang that the president is concerned that China is “far ahead” of the U.S. when it comes to EVs.


President Joe Biden drives a Ford F-150 electric truck in Dearborn, Michigan.

Photographer: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

China has been famously hands-on with building up its domestic auto industry for decades, and has committed several-hundred billion yuan to supporting the EV shift by an industry replete with state-owned manufacturers.

So, how to win this race? Much like oil was the lifeblood of the 20th-century economy, the key resource of the EV age is the battery — and all the stuff used to make them.

The International Energy Agency made a fascinating recommendation earlier this month to Western governments, advising them to consider stockpiling critical battery metals such as cobalt and lithium. Unlike oil, a relatively ubiquitous commodity, production and processing of minerals such as lithium, cobalt and some rare-earth elements is highly concentrated, with the top three producers accounting for more than 75% of global supply.

In Europe, prospective battery manufacturers are popping up in the Nordics, Germany, France, the U.K. and Poland in a transcontinental competition to chip away at the dominance of China’s CATL and South Korea’s LG Energy Solution.

Powering Up

After years of ceding ground to Tesla, CATL and LG Chem, plans for battery factories are popping up across Europe amid surging EV sales

Source: Company statements

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