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0:00 On-Shoring Synthetic Graphite for U.S. Battery Production
1:27 Converting Wood Waste into Graphite
2:12 Big $$$ In Battery Storage
4:16 EVs Are Tool & Die Bonanza
5:10 American & Chinese OEMs Rated Best at Writing Software
5:55 Big $$$ In Recycling EV Batteries
6:52 U.S. Gas Stations Closing Fast
7:48 ADAS Could Save 250,000 Lives Over 30 Years
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
Living in the Detroit area, the North American International Auto Show has always been a big deal. But, as a member of the media, it felt like unless you were forced to go, there was really no reason to go to the Detroit show this year. The real party was at the Battery Show in Novi, Michigan, which is about 40 minutes outside of the Motor City. This was a showcase of all the latest and greatest electric technologies and you may have seen our videos of John cruising the floor.
ON-SHORING SYNTHETIC GRAPHITE FOR U.S. BATTERY PRODUCTION
One of the things I took away from the Battery Show is that we should quickly start seeing other countries reduce their dependence on China for battery materials. Graphite is a major part of a battery, making up 30% of its total materials, but right now over 80% of the world’s graphite comes from China. So, a company called Anovion is bringing production of synthetic graphite to North America. It takes petroleum coke, which is a waste product from the fossil fuel refining process, and in 10-15 steps turns it into battery-grade graphite. Anovion says its process is about 60% less carbon intensive than the way most Chinese companies make graphite. It’s already building its first plant in Georgia and says it wants two more.
CONVERTING WOOD WASTE INTO GRAPHITE
But we also learned of another more sustainable way to make graphite. A company, called NanoTerra Tech, which is based in Canada, showed us how it can make graphite from wood. It takes the waste from sawmills – the sawdust, the bark, the stuff they don’t want – and then turns it into what it calls bio-graphite. NanoTerra Tech says bio-graphite is a direct replacement for synthetic or natural graphite and its process can be done with completely renewable energy. And because I know you’ll want to know. The wood to graphite ratio is 4:1. So, for example, if you had 200,000 tons of wood waste, you get 50,000 tons of graphite back.
BIG $$$ IN BATTERY STORAGE
Another sense I got from the Battery Show is that we’re going to start seeing a lot more battery storage. Our Next Energy or ONE was showing off its 3.5 MWh grid storage system. Now you might remember that name. We had their founder on a recent Autoline After Hours talking mostly about their unique battery technology for EVs. It’s an interesting watch that I’d recommend. But ONE is also pilling 45 of its Aries LFP packs, which it normally supplies for commercial vehicles, and is creating these grid storage systems. The idea is to use wind and solar to charge up the batteries and then that could be used for a number of things, like charging up EVs or selling electricity back to the grid during high demand when prices are also high. And I think we got a little insight as to why we could see more of these systems. ONE says the IRA provides more incentives for stationary storage than it does for automotive. The ability to make money off of this is another driving force. Tesla has shown through its Autobidder service, which uses AI to trade electricity stored in its energy assets, like stationary storage, that it can turn a good profit. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that ONE’s first grid storage client is Berkshire Hathaway.
I know it may seem like I went into great detail, but there’s a lot more to learn. I only scratched the surface on how the IRA could have a big impact on each of these companies. And we also produced another 9 videos on top of these. So, if you’d like to check that out, we’ll provide a link to the playlist in the transcript.
EVs ARE TOOL & DIE BONANZA
Good news for tool and die companies in North America. According to a study from Harbour Results and AutoForecast Solutions, automakers will significantly boost spending on tooling in the next few years to help support the introduction of new models. Tool and die companies have struggled the last three years but the study says tool spending will hit $7 billion in 2025, up from $5 billion last year. Automakers plan to introduce 130 new models between now and 2030 and they’ll convert or build 56 plants to produce those vehicles. But most of the tooling investment will still go towards internal combustion vehicles and the researchers are skeptical that automakers will hit their EV targets in the coming years because of high costs, a poor charging infrastructure and range anxiety.
AMERICAN & CHINESE OEMS RATED BEST AT WRITING SOFTWARE
Which automakers are the best at writing software? The Americans and the Chinese. That’s according to an index created by Gartner, a consulting firm. It calls it the Digital Automaker Index, and it studies the software capabilities of automakers in 8 different areas, including leadership, talent, corporate culture, architecture, connected vehicle, autonomy, electrification, smart cockpits and online sales. Not surprisingly, Tesla tops the list, followed by NIO and XPeng. Then come Rivian, Lucid, General Motors, Geely and Ford. VW and Mercedes are in the Top 10, but the Japanese and Koreans are at the bottom of the list.
BIG $$$ IN RECYCLING EV BATTERIES
The recycling of EV batteries is still in its early days, but there’s growing global interest because it’s already profitable. NMC batteries or ones with nickel, manganese and cobalt, contain an average of $10,000 worth of materials for every ton of battery cell weight. LFP batteries – lithium iron phosphate – have about $4,000 worth of materials, according to a company called Fastmarkets that tracks commodity prices. S&P Global Commodity Insights is forecasting that battery recycling will provide 11% of all the lithium, 11% of the nickel and 44% of the cobalt needed to make new batteries by the end of this decade. Battery recycling companies like Cirba and Li-cycle have told Autoline that in a couple of decades, recycling could replace a significant amount of raw material mining.
U.S. GAS STATIONS CLOSING FAST
As public EV charging stations pop up all across the U.S. and Europe, the number of gas stations is falling fast. According to DBRS Morningstar, which is a credit ratings company, the number of gas stations in the U.S. and the U.K. have fallen 35% since the year 2000. And there are now 65,000 fewer gas stations in the U.S. than there were in the 1990s. Morningstar says gas station owners face a lot more competition than they did before. Many EV owners are installing home chargers, companies like Walmart are installing public chargers, many automakers are licensing Tesla’s Supercharger network and seven automakers are joining forces to develop their own charging network. Morningstar says gas station operators need to evolve and offer more services to remain competitive.
ADAS COULD SAVE 250,000 LIVES OVER 30 YEARS
If Advanced Driver Assistance Systems or ADAS, were made standard equipment across the industry it could save hundreds of thousands of lives. According to a study funded by AAA with research performed by the University of North Carolina, ADAS technology, like automatic emergency braking and other warnings, could prevent up to 250,000 deaths over the next 30 years in the U.S. It could also prevent another 37 million crashes and 14 million injuries over the same period. But to get those benefits, more vehicles need to be equipped with the technology. Currently only about a quarter of registered vehicles have automatic emergency braking or blind spot warnings. By 2027, that’s expected to increase to about half of all vehicles. AAA also says there’s confusion with drivers on how to properly use ADAS technology and more needs to be done to educate them on how to use it.
But that’s it for today, thanks for watching and have a great weekend.
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Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.