Clean Energy Wire — 2023-09-01
Only internal combustion engines or hydrogen fuel cells allow Germany and Europe to produce cars “almost self-sufficiently”, as battery-driven vehicles are heavily dependent on international supply chains, according to German carmaker BMW. In an interview with business newspaper Handelsblatt, the company's CEO Oliver Zipse said that Europe is leaving itself open to blackmail from resource suppliers by betting on electric mobility alone. “That’s why I believe a political decision to end combustion engines is reckless,” he said, lamenting “an exit-decision without a simultaneous entry-strategy” for alternative engines. “The production of e-cars can only be scaled up if access to raw materials is secured. And that’s where Europe has a structural problem,” Zipse said, arguing that low acceptance of new domestic mining projects in the region makes developing a more autonomous industry even more difficult. Tighter CO2 emissions regulation for the fuel industry could make the car sector more climate friendly with combustion engines, the carmaker’s CEO said. China’s budding e-car industry demonstrated what an integrated strategy supported by the government can do to develop competitiveness. “This actually used to be a strength of Germany's,” Zipse said, adding that “it’s astonishing that Germany, in interaction with the EU, is increasingly taking a different approach.”
The production of combustion engines can be largely carried out with materials already available at scale in Europe, but fossil fuels needed to propel conventional combustion engines are overwhelmingly imported from suppliers outside of the EU, including countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia or Nigeria. According to the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), about 98% of Germany’s primary mineral oil consumption had to be imported in 2021. The EU and the German government have both taken steps to increase access to raw materials needed for electric mobility, including deals with new suppliers, possible stockpiling managed by the state, and vastly improved recycling mechanisms to recover valuable materials used in industrial products.