Volkswagen said on Monday that it would be constructing a battery plant for electric vehicles in southwest Ontario. The announcement was hailed by the province’s economic development minister as evidence of Canada’s quick turn around in the expanding industry.
The European carmaker revealed that St. Thomas, Ontario will serve as the site of the VW Group’s first overseas “gigafactory” for the production of battery cells, with production set to begin in 2027.
VW Group claimed that Canada has the best conditions, including a local raw material supply and widespread access to clean electricity.
Vic Fedeli, the minister of economic development for Ontario, noted that Canada made a remarkable turnaround from being a laggard in the production of electric vehicles to one of the leading nations in the battery supply chain.
In a contract inked with the federal government last year, the business promised to looking into potential locations for such a factory in Canada. They also agreed to look into methods for Canada to participate in Volkswagen’s battery supply chains, including providing raw materials and assembly.
Ontario introduced and swiftly passed a law modifying the municipal limits for a 1,500-acre “mega site” in southwest Ontario, setting the stage for the Volkswagen announcement last month.
In the announcement, it did not state how many jobs will such factory create and or, will it be fully automated similar to Tesla giga factories.
READ MORE: Canada to mandate electric vehicles in 2026
Canada wants to mandate EV in the near future
One-fifth of all passenger cars, SUVs and trucks sold in Canada in 2026 will need to run on electricity under new regulations Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault recently proposed.
By 2030, the mandate will hit 60 per cent of all sales and by 2035, every passenger vehicle sold in Canada will need to be electric.
Manufacturers or importers who don’t meet the sales targets could face penalties under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act through a phased-in approach.
Green Agenda and the Environment
While the Volkswagen announcement is certainly great news for Ontario and Canada’s economy, how will this factory contribute to the “Green Future”?
Electric vehicles (EVs) don’t emit any emissions, so they don’t contribute to local greenhouse gas emissions or air pollution. Yet, due to the minerals needed to create the battery, manufacturing an EV results in greater greenhouse gas emissions than an internal combustion vehicle, expert say. Reuters estimates that for North Americans’ new EVs to be more ecologically than an Gas vehicle, they must travel an average of 21.800 km. The size and effectiveness of the EV battery, the fuel efficiency of the Gas engine vehicle used for comparison (Reuters used a Toyota Corolla), and the EV battery’s power source all affect this figure. CO2 emissions don’t only come from manufacturing the batteries but also from making the electricity which will charge the EVs. The greener energy produced, the lesser CO2, the more dirty ways used to produce the lesser effectiveness of EVs.
Electric vehicles can be a significant part in cutting emissions, but their batteries also pose a threat to the environment.
Between now and 2030, it’s predicted that more than 12 million tons of lithium-ion batteries will be retired.
These batteries not only need a lot of raw materials, such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt, whose mining has an influence on the climate, the environment, and human rights, but they also pose the threat of creating a mountain of electronic garbage once they reach the end of their useful lives. In order to figure out how to breakdown defunct batteries and extract valuable metals on a large scale, hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into recycling firms and research facilities.
Tesla declared that it has begun constructing recycling equipment at its Nevada Gigafactory to handle used batteries.
Redwood Materials, based in Carson City, Nevada and created by former Tesla Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel, received more than $700 million in July and intends to grow its business. The plant receives used batteries, removes important components like copper and cobalt, and then returns the refined metals to the battery supply chain.
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Large technical obstacles still exist, despite recycling becoming more prevalent.
To reach the precious components, recyclers must navigate complicated designs, which is one of these. Carlton Cummins, co-founder of Aceleron, a startup battery manufacturer in the UK, claimed that recycling is infrequently taken into consideration while designing lithium-ion batteries. “Because of this, the recycler has difficulty. They are motivated to perform the task, but they are only made aware of the product once it arrives at their door”.
There are certainly many challenges in producing and recycling EV batteries, the environment outcome will remain to be seen in the future!