Japan’s battery tie-up with Canada the latest attempt to unlap itself in EV race

Sep. 26, 2023

Japan makes critical minerals deal as its automakers fall behind on electrification

Canada and Japan agreed to “work more closely together” on battery supply chains, the Canadian government said in a statement on last week.

The two sides signed the memorandum of cooperation during a visit by Japanese Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.

“As worldwide demand shifts increasingly towards cleaner forms of energy, Canada’s critical minerals resources and battery supply chains will play a vital role in how we get there,” said Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, forgetting to mention that “Canada’s battery supply chains” exist mostly on paper currently.

No details were provided on what shape or form the cooperation could take and it appears nothing had been fleshed out since March this year when Nishimura and 16 Japanese companies involved in batteries also visited Canada on a trade mission.

Like this memo, Japan’s road to electric car adoption appears to be paved with little more than good intentions.

The Prius like the Leaf has been swept aside 

The world’s biggest carmaker, Toyota, launched the Prius all the way back in 1997. It landed on US shores in 2000 and was an instant success. Driving the hybrid that started it all became a symbol of environmental awareness.

Soon celebrities like Leonardo di Caprio and Julia Roberts could be seen swanning around Hollywood in Priuses (or should that be Pria?) flashing their green credentials in a car that looked fit for the budget section of a rental car lot compared to the Mercs and Lambos they are accustomed to.

Japan’s battery tie-up with Canada the latest attempt to unlap itself in EV race

Most of the high-profile Prius customers would move onto full-electric cars like the Tesla Roadster, itself now 15 years old, which at least provided a more comfortable and spirited ride to a private airport for early owners like Matt Damon and Jay Leno.

While the world has moved on, Japan seems stuck in the 90s. The decade-long march it had on the rest of the world for green cars has been squandered.

Not to mention its head start in lithium-ion batteries. Japan was the first to commercialize the lithium-ion battery in 1991 with Sony’s camcorders.

Ugly duckling Nissan Leaf, the best-selling electric car in the world until the Model 3, has also never lived up to its potential.

Japan is catching up in the EV race, may soon surpass Holland

The Adamas Intelligence EV Battery Capacity and Battery Metals Tracker shows that in 2023, 91% of EV sales in Japan were conventional hybrids like the Prius (which at least now has a plug-in version and film-star looks).

Full-electric passenger cars (BEV) make up just 6% of all EV sales in Japan and BEV penetration in the country remains below 2%.

Despite the nation’s affinity for conventional hybrids, in 2023 Japan is the 8th biggest consumer of active battery metals and materials globally (considering LCE, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite deployed in batteries of newly sold passenger EVs) gobbling up a combined 11,700 tonnes through the first seven months of this year.

Canada, with just over 10,300 tonnes of battery metals and materials deployed in 2023 to-date, is in 12th spot globally, despite having a BEV penetration rate of 6%, triple that of Japan.

Do these figures put Japan behind its biggest auto rivals China, the US and Germany in the race to electrify its vehicle fleet?

Evidently. But behind the Netherlands, a nation that sells less than one tenth of the cars Japan sells annually? Adamas data shows that’s not a DAFt notion.

Through the first seven months of 2023 the Netherlands’ BEV penetration has risen to over 30%, bringing the nation’s total battery metals deployment to nearly 11,800 tonnes this year.

The country’s only sizeable car assembler is VDL Nedcar, previously DAF, proud makers of the Daffodil compact saloon between 1961 and 1967. VDL has the capacity to assemble 200,000 vehicles annually and started production of the Mini Cabrio Electric on behalf of BMW this year.

Hup Holland!


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