The line that Europe needs on electric cars

While the Europe of Brussels seeks an agreement for the new Commission, time is passing and it is increasingly urgent to review policies and rules on the automotive sector.

Last Thursday the news came that BMW canceled a two billion euro order for electric vehicle batteries signed in 2020 with the Swedish manufacturer Northvolt, but this, although it does not represent any backtracking by the company on electrics, is a signal important and demonstrates the consequences of certain ideological choices. Let’s be clear, the German company is progressing in the electrification of production by launching two new battery-powered car models (the i1 sedan and the i2 crossover), but the decision to withdraw from the agreement with the Swedes was taken jointly with this latest with the aim of jointly developing next generation accumulators. The statement reads: “The BMW Group continues to have a strong interest in creating a high-performance manufacturer of circular and sustainable battery cells in Europe.” According to German media, Northvolt would not have been able to meet the delivery times agreed in the contract, accumulating a delay of almost two years and developing an unexpected amount of waste. BMW then turned to Samsung Sdi. In other words, what was decided and hypothesized only four years ago today represents a choice impossible to implement, an unmistakable sign that the technology imposed by the Ursula Commission was completely immature.

Not only that: the rules that Europe has given itself contain short-term traps such as that of 2027 when, according to Brussels’ plans, the new taxation system for carbon dioxide emissions envisaged by the 2023 version of Ets-2 will come into force (Emissions Trading System-2) and this will affect buildings but also fuels. It is not yet known how much the increase will be, but even if it were ten cents per liter – but 35-40 are feared – the only way to avoid the bloodletting would be to block the measure or, but it is utopian, to accelerate so that fuels alternatives (synthetic and ecological e-fuels) are sufficiently widespread, therefore available, and cheaper. It is obvious that, given the impossibility of blocking tens of millions of cars with internal combustion engines within a few years, it would be easier for politicians to increase the operating costs of those who want to keep their cars with petrol engines than to reduce the cost of those battery-powered, a factor which we know, however, is only one of the critical ones of electric mobility.

The ETS, initially applied to the most polluting industries, is in fact a European tax applied before distribution that the end user has to pay. And the most surprising thing is that it was thought of by a CDU parliamentarian, therefore of the centre-right, the German Pieter Liese who has been in Brussels since 1994. Shortly before the European elections the president of Anfia, the automotive supply chain association, Roberto Vavassori, had published a real manifesto to highlight the priorities and requests of Italian companies for the new legislature. Pointing out that to date there is still a lack of a European plan for industrial reconversion, a fact which puts Italian automotive component companies in danger. In numerical terms we are talking about 5.6% of the GDP, approximately 240,000 workers and a turnover that exceeds one hundred billion euros. At the beginning of June, Vavassori was very clear: “80% of the regulations in the automotive sector are defined in Europe, therefore, it is essential that those elected to the European Parliament are aware of the importance that the next five years will have for the stability industrial and social aspect of the Italian mobility industry. If we want to give our companies the chance to compete on a global level again, we need a pragmatic and rational approach to regulation.” Translated into practice it means being concrete in doing things such as supporting investments in technology, retraining entire generations of workers through training but also reducing energy costs (and Ets-2 does exactly the opposite), therefore being independent in supply of raw materials. Which in the case of batteries is a supply chain firmly in Chinese hands from extraction to sale.

It is true that the new European Parliament will soon have to implement the program for revising the deadlines regarding the 2035 and 2040 limits for the stop to the sale of internal combustion engines in the Union, but how to do it is not yet known or, better yet, it is only known in having to it is necessary to limit the Chinese invasion with tariffs as announced, coincidentally only two days after the elections, by Ursula von der Leyen. Unfortunately, having to remedy the ideological madness of wanting to ban piston engines by 2035 is as inevitable as it is complicated. The right card could be the need to make European industry competitive again, as Mario Draghi also reiterated in the report commissioned by Ecofin, or, giving a liberal signal, each EU nation could be left free to decide the its calendar based on the characteristics of the territory, its market and the spending capacity of its citizens. If we think about the United States, there is a big difference between the ultra-electrified California and the traditionalist Alaska. But, precisely, this would be a liberal attitude and in recent years the EU has increasingly resembled a “Eurss”.