This Could Upend Automakers

The Biden administration is planning some of the most stringent auto pollution limits in the world, designed to ensure that all-electric cars make up as much as 67 percent of new passenger vehicles sold in the country by 2032, according to two people familiar with the matter.

That would represent a quantum leap for the United States — where just 5.8 percent of vehicles sold last year were all-electric — and would exceed President Biden’s earlier ambitions to have all-electric cars account for half of those sold in the country by 2030.

Nearly every major car company has already invested heavily in electric vehicles, but few have committed to the levels envisioned by the Biden administration. And many have faced supply chain problems that have held up production. Even manufacturers who are enthusiastic about electric models are unsure whether consumers will buy enough of them to make up the majority of new car sales within a decade.

In effect this is a dictate from the government that imposes manufacturing quotas overriding automakers future plans.
GM, Ford, & Stellantis goals were 40 to 50% new EV vehicle sales in 2030.

Did some quick a dirty math. If electric sales are at 6 percent now and they grow at 25 percent a year, they will make up 48
percent of sales by 2032.

25 percent annual growth yields about a double in the percentage of sales every 3 years. Currently, Tesla, the largest EV manufacturer in the U.S. is growing sales at about 5 times every 3 years, There is a lot of room in this calculation for Tesla to slow down and all the other EV wanna be’s to stumble.

In other word, 70 to 80 percent EV sales by 2032 is possible, I don’t know about probable. I will note that the double every 3 years thing has roots in my observation that battery density seems to double every three years and the costs seem to decline by half every three years.

Of course these are all very rough guesstimates and adoption will reach a break over point and will only then be restricted by infrastructure. I.E. Mines, refineries, battery plants, charging stations.


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Can enough lithium be mined to supply the needed amount of batteries to propel the proposed goal?

Depends on who you ask. Peter Zeihan says no. The guy from Engineering Explained says yes. I’m not sure whom to believe at this point, but I’m inclined to say it’s not the problem most seem to think. Battery technology continues to improve rapidly. And adoption rates are not going to be as extreme as some people think as well.

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This is more optimistic than I have read, which is that density has about doubled for lithium-ion technology over the past 20 years and that those improvements are slowing down, not accelerating. Obviously there’s a lot of research going on so that may not be definitive over time.

By contrast I think the cost of production has fallen 10-fold over the same time period, but that line is also flattening out (not stopped, however.)

Well, Zeihan is constantly commenting on the political perspective - which makes sense, as his schooling is in geopolitics. Nothing at all wrong with that. Jason Fenske (the Engineering Explained guy) generally stays away from politics and has a degree in engineering. I’m not going to say Zeihan is wrong, but I trust Fenske a lot more than Zeihan when it comes to the engineering side of things.

But mining lithium is more than just the technical skills to mine and refine the product. It also takes some political machinations, as the process is, by nature, messy and damaging to the environment. Fenske is likely correct that it’s not difficult to obtain the necessary quantities of lithium and the time frame is reasonable to build the necessary facilities and ramp up production. But Zeihan could also be correct in that the political machinations necessary to meet that goal are not likely to be successful in the noted time frame, leaving production of lithium to fall short of what is needed to reach the stated goal.

As to the OP - sounds more like the opening position in a negotiation to me. If you start negotiations with exactly what you want, you’re never going to get it. The other side of the negotiations will ask you to make some concessions in exchange for their concessions. If you’re selling your house, you start with an asking price somewhat higher than what the current market might suggest. That gives you room to negotiate the price down and still get close to what you think the house is worth. That’s all that’s happening here.



Actual battery density (not cost) in Tesla cars have about doubled in 14 years (2008 - 2012). This is about a 5% improvement per year. If they were doubling every 3 years, that would mean roughly a 24% improvement each year which is clearly not happening.
Of course once a battery is chosen for a given car the battery stays the same for at least a few years within a model so we don’t actually see a 5% improvement each year, it comes in lumps every few years.