The vote in favor of the European Parliament to stop the sale of cars with diesel and petrol engines from 2035 was inevitably at the center of discussions during the car show in Milan Monza. The main Italian institutions in the sector met for the conference “Research and Innovation, the future of mobility”, organized by MIMO and Lombardy. At the same time as they agree on the need for the development of mobility to ensure greater environmental and economic sustainability, the Italian car world is skeptical about the indirect imposition of battery electric propulsion as the only solution of the future. Rather, it is desirable to have a competitive engineering framework in which different technologies can compete to achieve unambiguously set goals while meeting the socio – economic needs of the population.
Minister for Economic Development Giancarlo Giorgetti expresses the widespread confusion in the Italian Government over the inevitability of the battery car. According to Giorgetti, the priority is to safeguard the principle of technological neutrality, a recurring expression during MIMO’s four days. The ideology is that the European Parliament’s definition of the goal of limiting carbon emissions into the atmosphere does not lead to the imposition of a single technology such as electric mobility, but leaves freedom for industry to pursue independently the various possible paths to achieve the ultimate goal. The Minister of Economic Development stressed the need to quantify polluting emissions not only from the vehicle’s exhaust, but to include the entire product life cycle, from the energy source to the wheel, without excluding the production process.
Michele CrisciPresident of UNRAE, reports how, with the current energy mix of renewable and fossil fuels, The CO2 footprint of an electric car is equal to that of a thermal car. The budget may vary slightly depending on the distance traveled during the life of the vehicle, as the greater the mileage, the greater the attenuation of CO emissions.2 associated with the production of the battery car. In addition to analyzing the emissions associated with the production of electricity for recharging the vehicle, the significant energy and carbon dioxide impact for mineral extraction and the processes necessary for the construction of the accumulators that must be included must be included. of the problems of conserving the territory in connection with the exploitation of mining areas.
Among the points raised in Crisis’s passage is the need for car manufacturers to be sure of the dates set by the EU, which are crucial for the preparation of intervention programs. Although the public debate is often focused on electrical technology, The medium-term future will also see the advent of hydrogen propulsion and autonomous driving. Furthermore, environmental sustainability can only be achieved by defining objectives for the entire industry around the car, taking into account the entire life cycle and production process. As repeated by Geronimo La Russa, President of ACI Milano, the hope is the preservation of technological neutrality through the elaboration of emissions targets, no matter how ambitious they are, leaving industry and the market with freedom of choice in terms of travel and propulsion technologies. Adolfo De Stefani Costantino, President of FEDERAUTO, calls on the European Parliament and individual countries to adopt a business approach, set targets and at the same time establish binding intermediate steps.
The President of ANFIA Paolo Scudieri expresses the unanimous opinion that no one is against the development of mobility, energy conversion and environmental awareness, and that the expression that can make everyone agree is technological neutrality. The acceptance of monotechnological ideology is frightening, as Europe, according to Scudieri, has no knowledge to support the introduction of the battery-electric car. In addition to the issue of pollution, there is also the problem of infrastructure, which is still lacking and insufficient both in terms of recharging columns and in response to the growing demand for electricity. Outside the EU, the latest news is that the UK has suspended incentives for electric cars, redirecting investment in infrastructure upgrades. Scudieri also highlights the social consequences of such a development and argues that an impoverishment of jobs in the sector is taking place. All this is according to the president of ANFIA son of a strategic policy pressured by the Eurasian countriesholders of very high percentages of resources for the production of battery cars.
The IEA, the International Energy Agency, has recently published a report on the division of mining in the market for electric cars:
-Copper: Chile 28%, Peru 12%, China 8%
-Nickel: Indonesia 33%, Philippines 12%, Russia 11%
– Cobalt: Democratic Republic of the Congo 69%, Australia 4%, Russia 4%
-Graphite: China 64%
– Rare countries: China 60%, USA 13%, Myanmar 11%
– Lithium: Australia 52%, Chile 22%, China 13%
But if it is expanded for processing, the balance of the aforementioned minerals nevertheless sees an even more extensive Chinese predominance:
-Copper: China 40%, Chile 10%, Japan 6%
-Nickel: China 35%, Indonesia 15%, Japan 8%
– Cobalt: China 65%, Finland 10%, Belgium 5%
– Graphite: China 64%
– Rare countries: China 87%, Malaysia 12%, Estonia 1%
– Lithium: China 58%, Chile 29%, Argentina 10%
The president of FEDERAUTO Costantino also recalls that China is expanding its territory with economic influence on Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, which jointly own about 60% of the planet’s lithium reserves, to get the nickname “Lithium triangle”. The recent outbreak of war in Ukraine has confronted Europe with difficulties in dealing with an excessive dependence on a country of a given resource, in the specific case of Russian gas, a problem that could recur in the event of friction with the nations that want the monopoly on the electric car. Italy and Europe boast enormous skills in the production of the final product, consolidated by a long car tradition, but they are technologically isolated in total upstream of the vehicle.
Consumer needs are complemented by environmental and political considerations. Andrea Levy, President of MIMO and a major car collector, he believes electric is the best alternative to the other car. The potential to become the first option is real, but it would require a lifestyle change as travel times are extended. Because of the proportionality between range and weight of an electric car, the consumer’s choice depends on needs. In fact, the question arises spontaneously about the actual need to prune behind a substantial mass accumulator to guarantee an autonomy of hundreds of kilometers for mainly city travel. Levy also reports that the electric is currently selected by one in twenty buyers, and suggests the problem of convincing the remaining nineteen, with the awareness of how a single car may no longer be enough to satisfy every need.
Evolution thus collides with the critical issues of the current socio-economic context. La Russa recalls how the economic crisis, pandemic and war have significantly reduced opportunities and the desire to buy. The renewal of mobility must face the prevention of a population reluctant to change cars, with Especially Italy, which is one of the oldest machines in Europe, which also generates critical issues on the security front. According to La Russa, the proliferation of rules, deadlines and restrictions on turnover creates discouragement and confusion, discourages purchases and slows down progress instead of pushing. This is reiterated by the President of FEDERAUTO Costantino, who highlights how the progress of research and the decline in CO emissions2 they are of little use if the car fleet remains obsolete. They are therefore necessary economic policy for tax relief for vehicle fleet replacement. In some foreign countries, holders of a VAT number, for example. 100% VAT on the purchase, whereby the car is depreciated by 20% of its price and not up to the limit of 3600 euros as required by Italian law. All this raises a further theme for reflection: In a Europe that strives to have the same technological rules for all Member States, the same homogeneity should also exist at the tax level.
When we note the current limits of the battery-powered car, we begin to explore the possible alternatives in the desired context of technological neutrality. Among all‘hydrogen, utilized for fuel cell electric propulsion or combustion in thermal engines, could be a solution as No. The limits of low energy efficiency exist, as the energy from the original source undergoes several processes, such as distillation of hydrogen itself, its transport and finally its conversion in the vehicle, which increases the losses and thus the emissions associated with electrical energy. could simply be used directly to recharge a battery without intermediate steps. On the other hand, hydrogen will open up for less political-economic dependence on lithium, for interaction with the district heating industry with consequent reduction in production costs and for easier conversion of infrastructure. According to Bosch studies, 70% of the already existing gas pipelines in Italy are ready to accommodate hydrogen mixtures as well. Hydrogen and electricity therefore contain neither absolute evil nor good, but it will be necessary to overcome their limits in order to realize their potential for 100% environmental sustainability. In a current context where there is no answer as to which and whether there will be a final solution, it would be appropriate to open up to research and, in short, to technology neutrality.
In conclusion, Minister Giorgetti summarized the items on the agenda, including the need to preserve transition technologies such as synthetic fuels and plug-in hybrids. At European level, national targets for investment in hydrogen infrastructure as well as a diversified regulatory approach for heavy vehicles were also requested. Italy has already won a victory and obtained the exemption on internal combustion engines for small producers, effectively saving the Motor Valley industry in Emilia-Romagna. However, the institutions present at MIMO have indicated that they intend to attend Premier Draghicalled for defining the line of government in a political debate that lacks coherence on the sensitive issue of mobility.