North American Battery Supply Chain Emerging

Despite having all of the critical ingredients for lithium-ion batteries — nickel, cobalt, lithium, graphite — Canada doesn’t have any EV cell or component manufacturing; and it has only about 10% of the battery demand of the U.S. Combined with a lack of government support for the battery supply chain, it had seemed that Canada was destined to lose the value-add of its raw materials as they are exported to countries that had invested in battery production…

Despite the promising foundations for Canada to be a cornerstone of the North American battery supply chain, until recently it had appeared that there was a lack of support at the government/policy level to attract the industry. This is no longer the case, in just the last two weeks two cell manufacturers have been enticed to set up shop in Canada, with plans to build gigawatt-hour scale cell manufacturing facilities in the country.

Once a country has cell manufacturing capacity, the rest of the component manufacturing industry tends to follow as suppliers move close to their customers. So, Canada is now on course to create a strong domestic battery supply chain…

As EV growth continues in North America, a new supply chain super-hub is growing to challenge the dominance of China, and it is quickly catching up with the growing industry in Europe.

Since the GOUSA is the earliest, potentially-growing EV market, we may wake up some morning and learn the folks smart enough to bankroll electric cars and trucks have decided it’s worthwhile playing in every portion of this 21st Century marketplace.

VW to add Electric Vehicle engineering, development, production to US operations

Volkswagen announced plans to add electric vehicle engineering at its factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The German automaker mentioned plans to develop cells and battery packs at the US plant.

The German automaker has been hard at work developing its next-generation electric cars based on its MEB platform. Much of the work happened in Germany, where VW already converted a factory to electric vehicle production.

By 2022, they plan to bring their MEB electric vehicles to the US and produce them there. Now they are also building a new electric vehicle factory next to their existing plant in Chattanooga. The German company is now announcing that it will also engineer EVs in the country.

Makes logistical sense. Means more employment for all levels, all classes of workers in the new automative and transport industry in the United States. They join the ranks of foreign and domestic manufacturers who see a global future in renewable-fuel vehicles.

Our politicians continue their Maypole dance around the White House dunce.

VW, There and Here

VW starts pre-production runs – new plant in China

❝ VW announced that it already started pre-production at its all-electric vehicle factory in China, just a year after ground breaking at the new plant.

Over the last two years, every major automaker has announced plans to build electric vehicles in China due to the country’s new aggressive zero-emission mandate.

❝ VW is among those automakers who quickly announced plans to build a new factory just for electric vehicles.

They started building it last year through their joint venture with SAIC and today, they announced that they started pre-production at their new factory in Anting, Shanghai.

VW breaks ground for $800 million EV plant in Tennessee

❝ Volkswagen breaks ground Wednesday on its Tennessee plant that will produce two battery-powered cars, according to Reuters. Plans for the $800 million investment in the Chattanooga plant were first announced in January. The ground-breaking shows that Volkswagen is intent on achieving its goal of producing 50 million electric cars in the next several years.

❝ Scott Keogh, Volkswagen Group of America CEO, characterized the event as part of a “magic moment” for electric vehicles in the United States. He equated it to the introduction of the Beetle, which went on to sell 21 million units.

❝ The average transaction price of a car in America right now is $33,000, somewhere around there. That’s where I’d put the dart in the market [for an electric vehicle]. That’s a decent space to approach the center of the market. It will be a car for the heart of the market.

Don’t kid yourself. The same kind of people whining about investments, government support for electric vehicles, here in the United States have their peers with the same kind of chickenshit DNA in China. Priorities are formed by leaders: political, economic and social leaders willing to move ahead. Apparently, it is still possible to find folks willing to setup shop in completely different countries because they recognize opportunity.

Nine of the world’s largest tech firms ain’t anywhere near Silicon Valley

FoxConn data centers

China is now home to nine of the world’s largest public tech companies in terms of market value. They include Alibaba, Tencent, Ant Financial, Baidu, Xiaomi, Didi Chuxing,, Meituan-Dianping, and Toutiao.

With well over a billion citizens and an ever-growing market, China’s rise in the tech market is understandable. Compared to the United States, the Asian country is outpacing, in leaps and bounds, the number of degrees awarded in science and engineering. This highly skilled labor force is paying off in China’s tech world and its expansion.

Just five years ago the Asian giant had only two of the world’s biggest public tech companies in market value. The United States boasted nine of the largest.

I know all of the rationales Americans – more than any Westerners outside of the UK – roll out to disparage faster and more dynamic growth in Asian countries. I worked for American and British firms sourced significantly from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China over a few decades. Some of the crap excuses worked for a few years; but, in every case, the reason those producers ran right past their Anglo-American counterparts was higher standards, a willingness to invest time and money in education, trained staff to accomplish product development and production more efficiently.

The single best example, nowadays, would be FoxConn – a Taiwan company mostly manufacturing in Mainland China. Ask anyone with knowledge of American manufacturing and assembly experience how long it takes to completely switchover a plant from one product line to another? You’ll get an answer measured in weeks. FoxConn takes hours, perhaps a couple of days. Because they will pay 1500 process engineers to takeover that plant floor and rollout a changeover in that time frame. I don’t know any American firms that can scrape together that many spare engineering staff – or would.

And I don’t know of any state in the GOUSA that’s capable of or concerned about educating engineers or researchers ready to develop similar systems here in the US – or in the UK. Yes, cultures are different in many ways. But, I’m just offering real reasons why we don’t compete.

Xi says GDP not China’s officials’ sole focus

Xi Jinping

China’s President Xi Jinping said officials shouldn’t be judged solely on their record in boosting gross domestic product, the latest signal that policy makers are prepared to tolerate slower economic expansion.

The Communist Party should instead place more importance on achievements in improving people’s livelihood, social development and environmental quality when evaluating the performance of officials, the Xinhua News Agency reported June 29, citing Xi at a meeting on personnel management on the eve of the 92nd anniversary of the party’s founding.

Xi’s comments follow remarks he made in May that China won’t sacrifice the environment to ensure short-term growth, and take place as the world’s second-largest economy undergoes its worst cash crunch in at least a decade as the government seeks to wring speculative lending out of the banking system.

“Xi is further legitimizing the case for slower growth,” said Andy Mantel, chief executive officer of Pacific Sun Advisors, an asset manager in Hong Kong that invests in Chinese stocks. “It is important to let local government officials know there is less importance of non-stop economic growth. There will be less pressure for local government officials to pump up their economic growth forecasts.”

China needs growth of about 7 percent to double per capita gross domestic product by 2020 from the level in 2010, Premier Li Keqiang said May 27 in Berlin after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. That’s down from an average pace of 10.5 percent a year over the past decade, with growth driven by surging credit, government investment, and exports…

“Xi’s speech includes a forward-looking recognition that obsessive emphasis on economic growth targets is obsolete and must now be balanced against vital environmental and social concerns,” said William Overholt, a senior research fellow at Harvard University…

Any number of economists and financial analysts worth anything, from Stephen Roach to Barry Ritholtz, who bring experience and study to bear on questions of national and international economics agree on this.

And, then, there are the talking heads of American TV and journalist lapdogs.

China discovers modular construction — just add labor, fireworks

If the video is cranky, click “YouTube” lower rh frame and watch it there
As a crane lowered a steel-and-concrete slab onto support pillars, construction workers swarmed around to bolt it down – a choreography of mad-dash steps against a backdrop of firecrackers, and a sacrificed cow, to herald China’s latest “instant building”.

The three-story structure, a workers’ cafeteria, was just a side note to a 30-story hotel built over 15 days outside this city in Hunan province in December. Both are examples of the streamlined construction being pioneered by China’s Broad Sustainable Building.

“There is an urgent need for construction security, especially energy-saving in construction, and this touches on conserving materials,” Zhang Yue, Broad Group’s founder and chairman, told Reuters in an interview at his headquarters in Changsha.

Over the last decade China has seen one of the biggest construction booms in history to house a surging urban population and an expanding industrial sector. But with that construction have come worries about environmental destruction, waste and shoddy buildings. Zhang argues that his buildings represent just the opposite…

“It’s very easy to learn the construction – all the workers need to do is fasten the bolts,” said Liu Zhijian, a 23-year-old site worker from the nearby city of Loudi. “There’s no welding, no dust, no water,” he said. “It’s not at all like traditional construction, which is all about bricks and concrete…”

The approach is relatively straightforward. Workers prefabricate flat modules at two factories in Yueyang, about 90 minutes north of the provincial capital of Changsha…

BSB estimates it produces 90 percent of its buildings in the plants.

The process also leaves little trash behind…”We have only 1 percent of construction waste at building sites,” said Shang Dayong, a worker from Ningxia province who came to learn the quick-build process to teach others back home.

Modular construction truly rocks. Even though most of the housing I worked on was custom designs, there are firms I competed against that did a stellar job with production modules built off-site and transported to fit the site. If their pre-designed packages fit the needs and taste of clients, savings of 20-30% were common.

In commercial construction — even faster and easier. There is one chain of motels that builds all of their modules as opposite rooms in the motel with a section of hall way between. They’re trucked to the job site and dropped into place floor by floor, side by side. Easy as pie. A hell of a lot less job site labor, savings on insurance, raw materials, scrap all-round.

Ford continues reducing water use – another 30% by 2015

Ford Focus Electric

There’s a surprising amount of water in pretty much everything – first-gen biofuels, anyone? – and Ford thinks it makes sense to get some of that precious liquid out of the process of making vehicles. Thirty percent, to be exact.

That’s the target that Ford recently set for global water reduction, per vehicle, by 2015. It’s just the latest in a reduction effort that has been going on since 2000, when the company started its Global Water Management Initiative. Ford claims it’s already reduced the water used per vehicle by 49 percent between that year and 2010. The 30 percent reduction target is going to be compared to the company’s 2009 levels.

How does the water get cut? By using something called Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL) machining (aka dry-machining) and by paying special attention to ways to treat and reuse “wastewater,” to cite two examples Ford offers. Dry-machining, “lubricates the cutting tool with a very small amount of oil sprayed directly on the tip in a finely atomized mist, instead of with a large quantity of coolant/water mixture.” The end result? Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water that don’t need to be sent through a Ford factory.

When looked at overall, Ford cut its water use by 62 percent between 2000 and 2010, which equals 10.5 billion gallons.

The amount of water used in conventional coolant/water mixtures is daunting. Though we all tremble over the task of diminishing our addiction to petroleum, our reliance upon water in industrial processes threatens individual and social water consumption at a truly scary rate.

I’m not so worried about running out of the former. Running out of water on this planet endangers even a sensibly reduced population.

Disclaimer: I own enough Ford shares to pay for a set of tyres – if I owned a Ford.

Remember when journalists published corrections when they screwed up facts? Not anymore, man!

What happens if you can’t find an actual scandal? Make one up. The Fisker “scandal” that started at ABC News has jumped to Fox and right wing blogs, where the idea that the U.S. bumbled into paying for cars built overseas is gaining steam.

ABC’s report incorrectly stated that Fisker had made off with U.S. taxpayer funds in a kind of bait and switch, promising jobs in America then outsourcing to Finland. Since that report rolled out last week, Fox has jumped on the issue with a story headlined “Federal Loan… for Finland?” Fox’s Neil Cavuto jumped in to add that, two years after the payments to Fisker, “those jobs still are not here, they’re in Finland.” Attempts to turn the Fisker loan (not a grant) into a scandal have become entangled in Republican primary politics, with candidate Mitt Romney calling for an investigation and claiming that loans to both Fisker and Tesla were payback for political donations.

All of which conveniently ignores some important facts. Yes, Fisker’s first model, the Karma plug-in hybrid sports car, is currently being assembled in Finland. However, the first $169 million in loans provided to Fisker were not for the assembly of the Karma. The loans went toward the design and engineering of the car, activities that took place at Fisker’s Pontiac, MI headquarters.

The bulk of the loan for Fisker was provided not for the Karma, but to support the upcoming Nina model, which will be built at the company’s new factory in Delaware starting in 2013. There are already 100 plant workers in Delaware employed by Fisker in preparation for the Nina and millions have been invested in preparing the Delaware assembly lines.

…Fisker has stated that “not a single dollar” of the money it received from the government has been spent overseas…[The federal funds were] used soley in the U.S. to fund design, engineering and integration work.”

Even real journalists hate to admit they screwed up. Retractions and corrections would appear in a follow-on edition – usually a tiny paragraph buried next to city council notes or something equally boring. Not anymore.

With the advent of the Web taking over news distribution, the original crappy article stays online. That’s where the correction should be posted. Which also serves to reinforce how the original writer was wrong.

When right-wing bloggers, Fox Noise and other know-nothings have already leaped into the abyss of being wrong with all four feet flailing in the wind, the likelihood of a correction continues to diminish – if you’re a chicken outfit like ABC News. How can they admit they’re wrong when so many ideologues are using that failure as the premise for political attacks.

Poisonally, I think it’s time for ABC News to act like grown-ups and own up to their lousy reporting – and quit worrying about where that leaves Rupert’s army of toy noisemakers.

Denmark #1 producer of clean technology; China #2; US #17

“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing
. . . after they’ve tried everything else.” – Winston Churchill

Denmark earns the biggest share of its national revenue from producing windmills and other clean technologies, the United States is rapidly expanding its clean-tech sector, but no country can match China’s pace of growth, according to a new report obtained by The Associated Press.

China’s production of green technologies has grown by a remarkable 77 per cent a year, according to the report, which was commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature…

Denmark, a longtime leader in wind energy, derives 3.1 percent of its gross domestic product from renewable energy technology and energy efficiency, or about $9.4 billion, the report said.

China is the largest producer in money terms, earning more than $64 billion, or 1.4 percent of its gross domestic product.

The U.S. ranks 17 in the production of clean technologies with 0.3 percent of GDP, or $45 billion, but those industries have been expanding at a rate of 28 percent per year since 2008.

“The U.S. is growing substantially, so it seems the policy of (President Barack) Obama is working,” Pols said. But the U.S. cannot compare with China, he said.

When you speak to the Chinese, climate change is not an ideological issue. It’s just a fact of life. While we debate climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy, the debate is passed in China,” Pols said. “For them it’s implementation. It’s a growth sector, and they want to capture this sector…”

Following Denmark and China, other countries in the top five clean-tech producers, in terms of percentage of GDP, are Germany, Brazil and Lithuania, the report said.

The understanding derived from science and the role of science in commerce and economics plays a leading role in most of the nations achieving success in advancing Green sectors in their economy. Hackneyed Cold War rationales for a lagging American economy remain nothing more than that – excuses for politics that haven’t made it to the Age of Reason much less the 21st Century.

I’d be surprised if even two terms of a White House committed to several venues of modernizing American commerce achieves much – with Congress, our schools and a national culture that relies as much upon the “common sense” of prayer books over scientific study. The culture of the fast buck in oil and other imports doesn’t lend much impetus to creativity in the marketplace.