A watershed summer for electric vehicles

Electric vehicles made a huge splash this summer, with nearly every major car manufacturer announcing a new line of all-electric, hybrid, or plug-in hybrid vehicles. Battery manufacturers announced huge leaps in production. And major shipping companies declared new commitments to electrifying their fleets while nations set ambitious targets for transitioning away from internal combustion engines. 

Not all of the good news was about new technology, though, as perhaps the most significant development was not in what is coming next, but what is being left behind. The venerable Daimler Automotive Group, one of the world’s oldest car manufacturers, announced that the company has no plans to develop new internal combustion engines, instead focusing on developing and expanding its electric vehicle fleet. Though they will continue developing parts and improving efficiency, the current generation of Daimler engines will be the last. Daimler AG includes Mercedes, the already all-electric Smart, as well as Freightliner, the world’s largest truck distributor. 

Amazon is also getting in the electric truck game. At an event outlining Amazon’s new commitment to combating climate change, Jeff Bezos announced that the company had placed an order for 100,000 Rivian electric trucks to electrify the world’s largest consumer distributor’s shipping fleet. The Rivian vehicles will appear on the road in late 2019 and go into full operation in 2020. 

And on the other end of the EV spectrum, Volkswagen unveiled its ID.3, a low-cost, long range “electric car for the masses”. ID.3s will begin shipping in 2020 as one of over 70 different electric vehicle models that VW plans to launch in the next decade. The company plans to sell 22 million electric vehicles by 2030, and expects, for example, that over 50% of the cars it sells in Australia will be electric. To power this massive fleet of EVs, Volkswagen also cut the ribbon on its 16 gigawatt-hour battery factory in Salzgitter, Germany. Volkswagen estimates that across all of its brands and car models sold in Europe and Asia, the total battery demand will be close to 300 gigawatt-hours. 

Meanwhile, China, where electric vehicles comprise about 5% of automotive sales is currently mulling a 60% electric vehicle target for all new vehicle sales by 2035. China is home to some  of the largest EV manufacturers, including BYD Auto, who, in addition to personal vehicles, supplies electric buses to major metropolitan areas across the world. As both the world’s largest automobile market and largest electric vehicle market, China is taking the lead on EV development. 

What does this mean for deep-sea mining? The battery requirements of electrifying the global automotive fleet is one of the most significant drivers of demand for metals found in abundance on the seafloor. More than one representative from a deep-sea mining company has noted that polymetallic nodules, in particular, are almost perfectly composed of every element necessary for next-generation battery technology, including cobalt, copper, and nickel as well as lithium, molybdenuem, and other rare earth elements.

Featured photo: Mock up of Rivian electric van, courtesy Amazon.

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