So, Volkswagen is building a Tesla style gigafactory to mass produce lithium batteries. And they’re investing €11bn, 3 times as much as the Tesla Panasonic behemoth in Nevada.
This massive story, sourced authoritatively from Handelsblatt, Germany’s version of the FT, might be the news that draws a line under one of the sorriest tales of modern times.
The VW emissions scandal wasn’t simply about duping its car customers. Although you’d be mightily peeved if you’d spent all that money on a clean motor, only to discover it was a dirty polluting banger after all.
The real scandal was the gross manipulation of the entire European car market by corrupt EU bureaucrats and lobbyists.
This is how the scam worked, and thank you to the brilliant Dan Hannan MEP for explaining how these EU lobbying scams work.
There are 25,000 lobbyists in Brussels. (yes you read that correctly – 25 thousand!)
One such group representing the European auto industry spotted a chance to get one over on their US and Asian rivals. Under the pretence of reducing CO2 emissions by 15% – they skilfully lobbied Brussels to adopt standards favouring the diesel engine.
Diesel had almost died out – having lived up to its reputation as dirty and polluting.
But then in 1998 one Neil Kinnock, the (unelected) EU Transport Commissioner, proudly trumpeted a new set of emissions standards favouring diesel.
It didn’t take long for the entire European car fleet to be transformed from mainly petrol to mainly diesel.
Did anybody mention that diesel produces four times as much deadly nitrous oxide as petrol? Nah – inconvenient truth.
Or that diesel produces 22 times as many tiny particulates that penetrate people’s hearts, lungs and brains?
So in order to line the pockets of the Euro carmakers, the unelected EU bureaucrats, and the parasitic lobbyists, in cahoots, polluted our cities and consigned men, women, and children, old and young alike, to terrible health risks. In the US alone the MIT has estimated 60 premature deaths. The figure will be significantly higher in Europe when all is said and done.
In a way VW’s behaviour is understandable (don’t get me wrong I’m not condoning it!) But it acted in a way that sought commercial advantage and worked under the rules prescribed by Brussels. The real scandal in my view is the corrosive and corrupting influence of Brussels in this whole saga.
VW has such a long way to go to rebuild trust. The company now faces massive lawsuits around the world.
But a concerted effort into EVs, and a serious effort to develop and deploy battery technology into their vehicles is the right answer.
CEO Matthias Mueller reckons it’ll take VW two years to recover its ‘shine’. Lithium battery technology will help them do it.
I reckon it’ll take a bit longer than that. But if VW is serious in its intent, if it explains what it’s doing and why, and if it can prove that it’s turned over a new leaf, the company has a fighting chance.
VW last week still reported figures that would be the envy of most automakers. The German carmaker made a profit before tax of €3.2bn (£2.4bn) in the three months to March, down from nearly €4bn a year earlier. Revenues were down 3.4% to a mere €51bn.
With VW’s colossal financial horsepower and serious “kick arse” bold moves into lithium battery Gigafactories, and its desire to win the EV car race, it will be a serious global force to reckon with.
There’s nothing like a crisis to focus corporate minds.
Sitting on Germany’s door step is Europe’s biggest lithium deposit at the old mining town of Cinovec in the Czech Republic. There’s reportedly 5.7 million tonnes of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (that’s technical jargon) already drilled up on the German boarder, with another 3-5 million more tonnes of the stuff to still be drilled up.
That’s $10’s of billions of the magic white Lithium stuff sitting at VW’s feet. Wouldn’t that be an interesting tie up? VW is going to need a hell of a lot of it to fill an €11bn battery factory.
But all in all, VW has been the reluctant victim of the undemocratic, unaccountable and corrupting practices of these unelected EU bureaucrats. Time for VW to shine!