An Electric Vehicle Revolution Relies on Reevaluating Supply Chains | Opinion

This year is proving to be the year of the electric vehicle (EV), both on a national level and globally.

The United States government pledged to replace the entire federal fleet of vehicles with EVs. Ford committed $29 billion toward EV and autonomous vehicle investment through 2025 while GM announced plans to exclusively offer EVs by 2035. America is finally starting to step up to the plate when it comes to the vehicle electrification movement that has already swept many parts of the world.

While this wave is promising, the U.S. is still operating on the surface level rather than maximizing this movement's true potential to impact the environment. Currently, government officials, automakers and consumers alike have too much of a "check mark" type of mentality when approaching EVs—if your car is electric you've done your part in making the world a better place. Simply put, that's not good enough.

In order to get on the same level of advanced clean energy societies, like Norway, the U.S. must get into the weeds and focus on every aspect of the EV supply chain to ensure that each component, from batteries to the transportation of parts, is happening through clean, sustainable processes.

Over the past decade, EVs have increased in popularity across the U.S. Even though we're pushing forward on adoption, we're still far behind some European nations.

Electric cars
Electric cars charge at a public charging station in the city center on December 11, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

In 2019, EVs accounted for less than 2 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. By comparison, 58 percent of new car sales in Norway were electrically chargeable in 2019. Juxtaposing that with emission rates shows an even starker difference. In 2018, 59 percent of transportation emissions came from cars in the U.S., whereas Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 fell by 3.4 percent year-over-year, its lowest level in 27 years.

While the U.S. does have a much larger population compared to Norway, it's still obvious there is ground to make up when it comes to being competitive on a global EV scale. The U.S. government and major domestic automakers must lead this charge. If these major players dedicate resources and time, then consumers will start to follow.

In 2019, only 14 percent of American consumers said they expected to buy or lease an EV. The survey showed an increase to 20 percent by 2025. This can be attributed to a multitude of reasons—from EVs becoming more accessible and affordable to the introduction of government incentives—but it's also likely due to the growing purchasing power of Gen Z. A vocal generation that is known to buy with their beliefs, Gen Z will buck the current "check mark" mentality and demand a truly green EV experience. To keep EVs on track for mainstream adoption, industry leaders must prioritize a truly green production process from start to finish.

In order to bring consumers on board quickly and effectively, industry leaders must take a hard look at their own processes. Every aspect of the electric vehicle production process should be as green and renewable as possible, from the facilities in which the cars are produced to all the required parts for each vehicle.

A large portion of this conversation is currently centered on battery and semiconductor production. Carmakers, government agencies and investors alike are relying on battery research to improve the efficiency, safety and costs of battery cells, packs and modules, while also focusing on how to fill the global semiconductor shortage. The major issue here is that nearly all major manufacturers are located in Asia. Foreign production not only has geopolitical implications, but also lengthens critical supply chains and increases the carbon footprint for EVs through added shipping emissions.

It's crucial that industry must be held accountable for identifying truly sustainable practices across geographies. While the United States government issued an executive order to review global supply chains with this in mind, it's not enough. We must act faster and take stronger action to influence change.

The pivot to renewable energy is not easy, but the U.S. can no longer afford to lag behind in the energy transition movement. It's crucial that leaders across the board prioritize implementing clean and efficient frameworks from the get-go. If the government and auto leaders can take the first step in pledging a completely green production process, then consumers will happily follow and America can level the EV playing field.

Daniel Barcelo is the CEO of Alussa Energy.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.