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China Leads in EVs

Why is China winning the electric-vehicle production race? Because it controls or dominates every step of the process of making EV batteries, according to The New York Times (subscription).

What’s going on: “Despite billions in Western investment, China is so far ahead—mining rare minerals, training engineers and building huge factories—that the rest of the world may take decades to catch up.”

  • Rare minerals: China owns the majority of the cobalt mines in Congo—where most of the world’s supply of the metal sits—and it controls most of the world’s lithium mining.
  • Refining: “Regardless of who mines the minerals, nearly everything is shipped to China to be refined into battery-grade materials.”
  • Components: China produces more EV batteries than any other country, which it managed “partly by figuring out how to make battery components efficiently and at lower cost.”
  • Final products: China boasts the most EVs on the road of any nation, and almost all of them use batteries made domestically.

Why it’s important: Now, eight years after the Chinese government instituted policies to bar foreign competitors from the EV market and increase consumer demand, “the Biden administration … [is] pursuing a similar strategy to foster battery development in the United States. But in a business with huge capital costs and thin profit margins, Chinese companies have a big head start after years of state funding and experience.”

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