Policy ForumIndustrial Policy

A “technology-smart” battery policy strategy for Europe

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Science  14 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6407, pp. 1075-1077
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau2516

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The world market for battery and hybrid electric vehicles (EVs), including passenger cars, buses, and freight trucks, is growing rapidly. Currently, almost all lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery cells for EVs are produced by East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) manufacturers. Meanwhile, the European automotive industry, among the largest in the world, generates 4% of European gross domestic product, and 12 million jobs (1); however, Europe houses less than 1% of the global Li-ion battery cell manufacturing capacity, and this production capability largely addresses niche markets. Manufacturing of batteries for EVs is thus at the center of industry policy discussions at the European Commission (EC), with calls for “European sovereignty” in Li-ion battery manufacturing (2). Here, we offer insights from battery research and innovation studies to suggest that catching up with East Asian companies is worthwhile, but can only be achieved step by step, by bringing competences to Europe through strategic global collaborations, supported by creation of an attractive European market for EVs.