Can we get to a point where we can stop mining for EV battery materials altogether?
It sounds almost science-fiction in some ways, but it isn't that far away. If you imagine a future where the transport fleet is almost entirely electrified and it's a little bit more steady state, in that case, we will not need to mine many new materials. If we can recycle 95, 98 percent of the metals in a battery, you can do that 100 times before you have to get new materials. Look at the lead-acid battery industry today, and it's a good example of where this can go. Those metals don't get consumed. They get built into the product and they just sort of sit there for the life of the product. We can recover them and reuse them at the end of it.
What's the biggest threat to the electric revolution? Is it possible EVs may never catch on?
I think we've crossed a critical-mass threshold on this. The revolution is going to happen; I'm confident of that. Some of the biggest threats, though, are the smoothness with which it happens, how disruptive it is to the OEMs, the customers. We've said it before, but some of the supply chain challenges are some of the biggest threats. This is a massive shift in the whole supply base and the way cars are built. It's not a foregone conclusion that can happen smoothly.
How will the market react to the wave of EVs coming?
Not all of these models will be very successful. We're going to go through this transition where it's not enough to just be electric. It really probably never was enough. It needs to be a great product that is also electric. That, I think, is not the case with everyone coming out over the next few years. It was different when it was driven by regulatory pressures. Then it was enough to just be electric. You'd lose money on a car and it didn't have to be great. This is a different cycle, a different wave where customers have a choice and they're going to choose the best products that have range, performance, price, all the different attributes.
What chance do some of the new EV startups have at surviving?
My view is that the window may have closed, I think, on the ability for brand new startup manufacturers to sort of come in through the EV transition. It's phenomenally difficult to build a car company that actually can manufacture. No one appreciates just how difficult that really is, other than maybe the existing OEMs. I think a lot of people had some exuberance to look at what Tesla did and want to replicate that.
Naturally, it makes sense. But it may be important to remember that Tesla had a multi-year head start to mature the technology and work on this at a time when it was in its utter infancy and there was very little competition — in fact there was anti-competition, people actively saying it was the wrong direction. This is a very different market. Now a startup coming into this is competing head to head with $11 billion investments from major OEMs and huge commitments and major products. It's a different market.