The strategic autonomy of rare earths

Italy is also trying to organize itself as evidenced by the meeting between Draghi and Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who presented the plan for the construction of a semiconductor production plant in Europe. For this to happen, however, production must be cheaper than relocating outside Europe or buying from Asian competitors, and Gelsinger wants to secure the consent of the Member States for Brussels to authorize the necessary aid, estimated at around 8 billion euros. Not just overseas investors: one of the largest European chip manufacturers, Stmicroelectronics, is Italian-French, which has two major investments in Italy at stake. The first, at a more advanced stage, in Agrate Brianza, the second, still on paper, in the Etna valley. All hanging on the new Pnrr. The United States also has $ 50 billion of the Chips Act on the plate for home production, along with other funds, yet to be quantified, from the State Department’s “Multilateral Security Fund for Semiconductors”. Target? Convincing European allies to “secure production chains” and avoid new crises. The automotive industry, which is facing a double challenge, has been damaged above all by the shortage of microchips. In fact, in the race for the electric car it is essential that there are no hitches in the supply of lithium batteries – which for their part depend strictly on cobalt, a rare mineral of which China holds over 70% of the reserves. And if it is difficult to beat the Asian giant in the cobalt race, you can try for lithium and in the production and transformation phases. The automotive is in turmoil. General Motors has just announced investments in what could become the largest US lithium project within 3 years, which would make GM one of the first auto companies to have its own source of supply of the key metal for batteries. It will do so with cutting-edge technology that focuses on the sustainability of the process, less invasive for the environment and which will use the heat generated for extraction to produce electricity. It is expected that with the new regulations that will lead to a progressive abandonment of combustion engines, the demand for lithium will grow by 20% in four years. Also the Korean Hyundai Motor has just invested 100 million dollars in the startup SolidEnergy, of which General Motors is also a shareholder. The field of action of SolidEnergy are the latest generation batteries capable of guaranteeing much longer periods of autonomy in small spaces. A vital technology not so much for electric cars for domestic use as for long-distance road transport. Here another all-European joint venture was set in motion, between Daimler Trucks, AB Volvo and Traton. The purpose of the partnership is the development of a network of recharging stations for electric trucks and buses, with 1700 points within the next five years. The planned investment is around 500 million euros, with the aim of making the use of large electric vehicles more widespread and convenient.

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