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Transcript of YouTube Video: Why China is winning the EV war

Transcript of YouTube Video: Why China is winning the EV war

Welcome to our collection of transcripts of YouTube videos, where we provide detailed text versions of "Why China is winning the EV war" content.

00:00

In 2024, Ford Motors cut back production

00:02

on their F-150 Lightning, the electric version

00:05

of their popular pickup truck.

00:08

Sales on the Lightning had tanked, in part

00:10

because it costs more than its gas powered counterpart.

00:14

This isn't just a problem for Ford.

00:16

The average price of a new EV in the US

00:18

is about $55,000,

00:20

making electric cars a hard sell for most US consumers

00:23

at a time when EV adoption is critical for our climate goals.

00:28

Roughly 40% of the cost to produce

00:30

an electric vehicle is in the battery.

00:33

So in 2023, it was reported

00:35

that Ford was looking at sites

00:37

in Virginia or Michigan for a new battery plant

00:39

that could help lower its costs.

00:42

But there's a catch.

00:44

The battery technology it would use is from a company

00:46

based here, in Fujian Province, China.

00:50

That company is CATL,

00:52

the largest battery maker in the world.

00:56

Virginia's governor

00:57

decided to kill the battery plant proposal in his state

01:00

because of its links to China —

01:01

They are influenced,

01:03

if not controlled, by the Chinese Communist Party.

01:05

— putting Ford’s CEO on the defense —

01:08

Look, this plant is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford.

01:11

— and leaving them to look elsewhere for a site.

01:14

This battery plant got caught up in a broader trade war

01:18

between the US and China,

01:19

in reaction to the extraordinary rise of China's electric vehicle market.

01:23

They make up over half of all EV sales globally,

01:27

and in just a few short years, have brought slick

01:29

and affordable electric cars to the market.

01:32

Key to this rise is the electric vehicle battery.

01:35

This part of the EV

01:36

is where China has really come to dominate the global market.

01:39

So how did Chinese companies create the world's

01:41

leading EV battery?

01:43

And can US automakers make an affordable electric car without it?

01:53

The first major reason for

01:54

why China's companies were able to develop their EV battery

01:57

is due to a huge amount of government support.

02:00

Roughly 20 years ago, China was on track

02:02

to become the world's largest importer of oil,

02:05

so electrifying its car fleet would help

02:07

it become more energy independent.

02:10

Not to mention a growing air pollution problem

02:12

in China's cities, in part due to car emissions.

02:16

What the EVs had going for them

02:18

was that the head of the Ministry of Science and Technology

02:22

was a big believer in this.

02:24

And his sense was that Chinese companies were just

02:27

never going to be able to compete on internal combustion

02:29

engine technology.

02:31

That’s how you get this package of policies that really supported

02:34

what the Chinese government defined as “new energy vehicles.”

02:37

Companies making the cars can get a subsidy

02:39

whenever they sell a car.

02:40

We're also talking about,

02:41

they're getting cheap land leases from the government.

02:45

They're getting cheap loans from the state-owned banks.

02:48

According to one estimate, from 2009 to 2022,

02:51

the Chinese government gave out $29 billion

02:53

in the form of subsidies, research spending,

02:56

and tax breaks, to the EV industry.

02:58

And starting around 2009,

03:00

local governments also gave

03:01

Chinese companies an instant market by contracting them

03:04

to electrify their bus and taxi fleets.

03:07

The city of Shenzhen's fleet of 16,000 buses was electrified by BYD

03:12

before it became the world's largest EV company.

03:15

To get consumers on board, governments offered them generous subsidies too,

03:19

along with other benefits.

03:20

Like discounts on charging, favorable parking,

03:23

traffic congestion-related policies that EVs get a break on.

03:27

EVs actually have a different colored license plate, even,

03:29

so it's very visible.

03:30

And so people see, oh, that's an EV.

03:31

They get all the special treatment.

03:33

But the battery wasn't very good in the early days.

03:36

And so the Chinese government goes in and starts introducing

03:38

stricter standards of batteries,

03:40

saying, well, you'll only qualify for this credit

03:42

if your battery density reaches this level.

03:46

Consumer EV sales in China exploded,

03:48

and when it did, the government

03:50

did something important to protect their own battery industry.

03:52

When foreign car companies like GM

03:54

and Tesla wanted to sell their EVs in China,

03:57

the government made a rule that their cars must use

04:00

Chinese-made batteries to qualify for consumer subsidies.

04:03

China’s central government

04:04

phased out consumer subsidies in 2022,

04:07

but the demand had been created.

04:09

In 2024, over half of new car sales in China were electric.

04:12

This is a milestone, because half is a big thing.

04:15

It means that the majority of the people

04:17

are actually preferring EVs over gas cars now.

04:20

The second way Chinese battery companies became

04:22

so dominant is through the supply chain

04:24

for the battery components.

04:26

The type of battery that typically goes into

04:28

electric vehicles is called a lithium-ion battery.

04:32

The four main components of the battery cell

04:34

are the cathode, the anode,

04:36

the electrolyte solution, and a separator.

04:39

The cathode is usually packed with

04:41

nickel, cobalt, and manganese.

04:42

The anode uses graphite,

04:44

and the electrolyte is made up of mostly lithium salts.

04:47

Over the past several years,

04:49

Chinese companies started acquiring ownership stakes

04:52

in mines around the world where these minerals exist.

04:54

So they're sure that, if we control the production, then we control the price.

04:58

The effect is that Chinese companies control significant percentages

05:01

of the world's supply of the minerals needed for batteries.

05:04

But where China really controls

05:06

the supply chain are the steps after mining.

05:08

No matter who mines the minerals,

05:10

China refines a vast majority of them.

05:12

This is the step where factories grind down raw mined

05:15

materials and extract the desired mineral from it.

05:18

It's pretty polluting.

05:19

That's why you don't see that much refining

05:22

happening in developed countries.

05:24

Chinese plants then also manufactured the vast

05:26

majority of the four components

05:28

of the EV batteries: the cathode, the anode,

05:30

the electrolyte and the separator, and put them together

05:33

to make the battery cell.

05:35

Because you already had pretty developed manufacturing

05:38

for batteries aimed at electronics.

05:40

So BYD is actually one of those examples,

05:43

they started by producing batteries

05:44

for electronics in the 90s. And then it got into producing EVs.

05:48

The US was never a battery manufacturing player,

05:51

historically speaking, in lithium ion.

05:53

It was previously Japan and Korea.

05:56

China has has now superseded both.

05:59

China’s control of the battery supply chain is so encompassing

06:02

that after the Biden administration passed a rule

06:04

saying no more than half of the batteries’ components or minerals

06:08

could be Chinese-sourced

06:08

to qualify for tax credits, only an estimated

06:12

20% of EV models qualified.

06:15

With their market dominance, Chinese companies have been able

06:18

to lead the world in battery innovation. In the past two years,

06:21

Chinese companies figured out how to avoid

06:23

using the two most expensive

06:25

battery minerals, nickel and cobalt.

06:27

They did this by innovating on battery technology

06:30

called lithium iron phosphate, or LFP.

06:33

In 2023, CATL announced an LFP battery

06:36

that could power a car for 370 miles on

06:39

just a ten-minute charge,

06:41

and BYD has developed their own version of an LFP battery, too.

06:44

It's called blade battery.

06:46

It’s like a very thin, very long blade.

06:48

But basically they’re saying that by using that shape,

06:51

it can cram more batteries into the same space.

06:53

So in that way, like,

06:55

the same size of a car can travel farther.

06:58

Today, LFP batteries are a growing share of all EV batteries,

07:01

and nearly all of them are manufactured in China.

07:05

But not for long.

07:06

CATL has built battery plants in Germany,

07:09

and has plans to build one in Hungary for the European auto market.

07:12

And Ford ended up finding a home for its CATL

07:15

battery plant in the town of Marshall, Michigan.

07:18

The project has triggered a US House investigation.

07:21

But if it goes through, it'll be the first LFP

07:23

plant in the US.

07:26

All of these factors have

07:27

made Chinese EV batteries virtually impossible

07:29

to avoid in the global transition to electric vehicles.

07:32

Was there not a viable alternative?

07:35

No there wasn't.

07:36

LFP technology is is very well developed.

07:39

The battery business is a global business.

07:42

And, this was,

07:43

there were no alternatives.

07:45

There are some concerns about whether China's government support of the EV industry

07:49

amounts to unfair global competition,

07:52

as well as human rights and environmental concerns

07:54

associated with China's battery supply chain.

07:57

The US is investing their own government support

08:00

to build up its battery industry.

08:02

Bloomberg estimated it would cost $82 billion for the US

08:05

to meet their own domestic demand by 2030.

08:08

So it might be possible in the future,

08:10

but that's no help right now,

08:11

when we desperately need to transition to electric vehicles

08:14

to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, and US

08:17

automakers are struggling

08:18

to give consumers affordable options.

08:21

So for now, we'll have to decide

08:23

whether our desire to keep our distance from China

08:26

outweighs our goals of going electric.