According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2019 China’s growing energy needs are increasingly met by renewables, natural gas and electricity.The scale of China’s future electricity demand and the challenge of decarbonising the power supply help explain why global investment in electricity overtook that of oil and gas for the first time in 2016, and why electricity security is moving firmly up the policy agenda. When it comes to energy there is a fundamental transformation underway that will deliver a new reality in clean energy. It is not just the traditional advocates of renewable energy that are leading the way, it is the world’s major emerging economies such as China and India that are driving this clean energy transition. One of the prime strategies for China is to increase the penetration of electric vehicles (EVs). The move towards an electric based mobility solution now forms a major part of the environmental policies of many governments with many already having set targets. China is one of several nations to announce a desire to phase out traditional internal combustion engines entirely. It is believed that moving to EVs will ensure an improvement in the air quality in China’s major cities and this is driving the carmakers to invest in electrification. A crucial piece of the EV puzzle is the raw material resources that include the minerals – copper, nickel, cobalt, graphite and lithium – that are processed for use in EV components including lithium-ion (Li-on) batteries. These raw materials are mined in various parts of the world including China itself along with Africa and South America. Currently China accounts for 70 per cent of the global lithium cell manufacturing capacity, with the United States at just 12 per cent while Europe only accounts for three per cent of global production capacity.
It seems hard to believe when you look at the streets of Chinese cities where Range Rovers, VWs and Toyotas vastly outnumber the local incumbents of Havals, Changans and BYDs but China has grand aspirations to lead the world in electric vehicles, both the finished product and the major components. Chinese carmakers already make more cars than those of any other country. They also make more electric cars than anyone else, laying a claim to the industry’s future. To maintain that leading position China needs to supplement its native mineral deposits with overseas resources and for that goal they have had their eyes on Africa for some time.