Volkswagen might as well hang a “sold out” sign on the doors of its European and U.S. factories. The world’s second-largest manufacturer of electric automobiles announced last month that any plug-in ordered after May won’t find its way to customers’ garages before 2023. The German carmaker’s sales of nearly 100,000 battery electric models in the first quarter landed it behind only Tesla, but far from the pace needed for the 700,000 it planned to roll off its assembly lines this year. And Tesla, too, like almost all other EV carmakers, says it is highly unlikely to hit 2022’s sales targets.
Carmakers such as Volkswagen and Tesla say they face multiple problems, including the Chinese economy’s airtight Covid lockdown, which has stifled China’s demands for new electric vehicles. But closer to home in Europe, the looming obstacles have much to do with fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s role as a major supplier of the metals needed for EV batteries, as well as for the entire renewable energy sector, from wind turbines to solar panels. The war in Ukraine — coupled with continuing Covid supply chain disturbances, logistics bottlenecks, and soaring global inflation — has reversed a decade of falling prices in the green tech sector. And that reversal threatens to set back the global rollout of low-carbon technology.
Russia has not cut off its export of the metals needed for the green energy sector, but Britain has imposed tariffs on imports of some Russian metals as a result of the war. And the specter of additional tariffs being imposed by the European Union — thus far blocked by Germany — hangs over an already hobbled renewables sector unable to meet surging demand eight months after the bloc set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030. [Continue reading…]