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US sets sights on China in new electric vehicle push

Updated April 07, 2019

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The file photo shows a staff member stands next to an e.Cool electric SUV by Chinese automaker Changjiang on display at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing.—AP/File
The file photo shows a staff member stands next to an e.Cool electric SUV by Chinese automaker Changjiang on display at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing.—AP/File

NEW YORK: US government officials plan to meet with executives from auto­makers and lithium miners in early May as part of a first-of-its-kind effort to launch a national electric vehicle supply chain strategy, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

While Volkswagen AG, Tesla Inc and other electric-focused automakers and battery manufacturers are expanding in the US and investing billions in new technology, they are reliant on mineral imports without a major push to develop more domestic mines and processing facilities.

China already dominates the electric vehicle supply chain. It produces nearly two-thirds of the world’s lithium-ion batteries — compared to five per cent for the US — and controls most of the world’s lithium processing facilities, according to data from Benchmark Mine­rals Intelligence, which tracks prices for lithium and other commodities.

US imports of lithium have nearly doubled since 2014 due in part to rising demand from Tesla, SK Innovation Co and others building battery plants in the country, according to the country’s Geological Survey.

“We need to find ways to more efficiently develop our nation’s domestic critical mineral supply because these resources are vital to both our national security and our economy,” North Dakota Senator John Ho­­even, a member of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement to Reuters when asked about the meeting.

Hoeven and Senator Lisa Murkowski, chair of the Senate’s energy committee, have been invited to attend the meeting.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2019