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ADMIN 2021. 03. 05.  
   제목: The Auto Industry Bets Its Future on Batteries

The Auto Industry Bets Its Future on Batteries

Carmakers, government agencies and investors are pouring money into battery research in a global race to profit from emission-free electric cars.

The lab at QuantumScape, a Silicon Valley start-up whose investors include Volkswagen and Bill Gates, is working on a technology that could make batteries cheaper, more reliable and quicker to recharge.

By Jack Ewing and Ivan Penn
Feb. 16, 2021

As automakers like General Motors, Volkswagen and Ford Motor make bold promises about transitioning to an electrified, emission-free future, one thing is becoming obvious: They will need a lot of batteries.

Demand for this indispensable component already outstrips supply, prompting a global gold rush that has investors, established companies and start-ups racing to develop the technology and build the factories needed to churn out millions of electric cars.

Long considered one of the least interesting car components, batteries may now be one of the most exciting parts of the auto industry. Car manufacturing hasn뭪 fundamentally changed in 50 years and is barely profitable, but the battery industry is still ripe for innovation. Technology is evolving at a pace that is reminiscent of the early days of personal computers, mobile phones or even automobiles, and an influx of capital has the potential to mint the next Steve Jobs or Henry Ford.

Wood Mackenzie, an energy research and consulting firm, estimates that electric vehicles will make up 18 percent of new car sales by 2030. That would increase the demand for batteries by about eight times as much as factories can currently produce. And that is a conservative estimate. Some analysts expect electric vehicle sales to grow much faster.

Carmakers are engaged in an intense race to acquire the chemical recipe that will deliver the most energy at the lowest price and in the smallest package. G.M.뭩 announcement last month that it would go all electric by 2035 was widely considered a landmark moment by policymakers and environmentalists. But to many people in the battery industry, the company was stating the obvious.

밫his was the last in a wave of big announcements that very clearly signaled that electric vehicles are here, said Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University who researches battery technology.

Battery manufacturing is dominated by companies like Tesla, Panasonic, LG Chem, BYD China and SK Innovation nearly all of them based in China, Japan or South Korea. But many new players are getting into the game, and investors, sensing the vast profits at stake, are hurling money at start-ups that they believe are close to breakthroughs.

밒 think we뭨e in the infancy stage, said Andy Palmer, the former chief executive of Aston Martin and now the nonexecutive vice chairman of InoBat Auto, a battery start-up. 밫here is more money than there are ideas.

QuantumScape, a Silicon Valley start-up whose investors include Volkswagen and Bill Gates, is working on a technology that could make batteries cheaper, more reliable and quicker to recharge. But it has no substantial sales, and it could fail to produce and sell batteries. Yet stock market investors consider the company to be more valuable than the French carmaker Renault.

China and the European Union are injecting government funds into battery technology. China sees batteries as crucial to its ambition to dominate the electric vehicle industry. In response, the Chinese government helped Contemporary Amperex Technology, which is partly state-owned, become one of the world뭩 biggest battery suppliers seemingly overnight.

The European Union is subsidizing battery production to avoid becoming dependent on Asian suppliers and to preserve auto industry jobs. Last month, the European Commission, the bloc뭩 administrative arm, announced a 2.9 billion-euro, or $3.5 billion, fund to support battery manufacturing and research. That was on top of the more than 60 billion that European governments and automakers had already committed to electric vehicles and batteries, according to the consulting firm Accenture. Some of the government money will go to Tesla as a reward for the company뭩 decision to build a factory near Berlin.

The United States is also expected to promote the industry in accordance with President Biden뭩 focus on climate change and his embrace of electric cars. In a campaign ad last year, Mr. Biden, who owns a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette, said he was looking forward to driving an electric version of the sports car if G.M. decided to make one.

Several battery factories are in the planning or construction phase in the United States, including a factory G.M. is building in Ohio with LG, but analysts said federal incentives for electric car and battery production would be crucial to creating a thriving industry in the United States. So will technological advances by government-funded researchers and domestic companies like QuantumScape and Tesla, which last fall outlined its plans to lower the cost and improve the performance of batteries.

Excerpts articles from The New York Times

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