Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares has called the European Commission’s strategy to phase out combustion engines in favor of electric vehicles a political choice that carries both environmental and social risks. Despite his opinion, the chief of the world’s fourth-largest automaker has previously mapped out a $34 billion electrification plan that has boosted company shares by more than 60 percent.
“What is clear is that electrification is a technology chosen by politicians, not by industry,” Tavares said in a joint interview with leading European newspapers. “Given the current European energy mix, an electric car needs to drive 70,000 kilometers (~40,000 miles) to compensate for the carbon footprint of manufacturing the battery and to start catching up with a light hybrid vehicle, which costs half as much as an EV.”
Tavares’ comments seem based on a study called “Decarbonising Road Transport: There Is No Silver Bullet” authored by Clarendon Communications. The study was partially funded by Bosch, Honda, and McLaren and renewable fuel advocacy groups. It has been criticized for being anti-EV by political groups partially funded by companies invested in building vehicle charging infrastructure, fast charging capabilities, mobility providers, and zero-emission labs. In other words, the other side.
The Stellantis CEO added there were cheaper and faster ways of reducing carbon emissions, likely in the realm of synthetic fuels and carbon neutrality. There are other risks involved as well, carmakers need to start transforming their plants and supply chains quickly. Meaning decades of expertise, equipment, and supplier relationships will be scrapped.
“The brutality of this change creates social risk,” Tavares concluded.
Margins are already razor-thin in the automotive industry, and the drive to make electric vehicles affordable only puts further strain on those few percentage points. There are also questions regarding the supply of raw materials like lithium required to build batteries and other key EV components. Lithium prices have spiked some 500 percent in the past twelve months due to increased demand from major automakers, and the world only contains so much lithium.
Some were quick to call out Tavares and treat his comments as those of an uninformed individual, as if the CEO of a major multinational car company had little insight into the nuances and political pressures involved in running a major multinational car company.
Tavares isn’t wrong, EVs are not something the market has pivoted towards on its own without the help of political motives. Experts point to EV hotspots like China as proof that electric vehicles are gaining traction, but forget to mention the generous incentives to push people towards EV adoption, and draconian penalties for those who choose otherwise. Not to mention, China is estimated to control 55% of the world’s rare-earth mining and 85% of the refining process. In other words, China largely controls the EV battery market.
In China, EVs have been employed as a political vehicle to greenwash the country’s otherwise atrocious environmental record. The majority of electricity production is from coal-fired power plants, a fact that won’t change anytime soon as the Communist Party of China recently announced a $31 billion plan to finance ‘clean coal’ projects.
Shush, don’t ask questions, bias only counts as bias if it’s in opposition to the official narrative.