Column: Automakers go back to the future to secure battery metals – by Andy Home (Reuters – April 27, 2022)

LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) – Henry Ford was right all along, it turns out. After decades of honing just-in-time global supply networks, car companies are going back to Ford’s founding principle of self-sufficiency. Ford’s iconic River Rouge complex in Dearborn Michigan made its own iron and steel, supplied by company freighters from its own iron ore and coking coal mines in Michigan and Kentucky.

World War One had created material shortages and disrupted logistics. Ford’s answer was to take full ownership of the automotive supply chain from mine to product. Auto companies are facing up the same problems today, compounded by the need to go electric, which means creating totally new metallic supply chains.

While Ford worried about iron ore and rubber, his successors are battling supply crunches and soaring prices in key battery inputs such as lithium, nickel and cobalt.

If “insane” lithium prices persist, tweeted Tesla (TSLA.O) CEO Elon Musk, the company “might have to get into the mining and refining directly at scale.” He’s not the only automotive executive thinking about minerals self-sufficiency.

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