Volkswagen, with its plan to build 22 million new electric cars across 70 models by 2030, is ground-zero for concerns over battery supplies.
As more automakers get serious about building lots of electric cars, there are indications that supplies of batteries to power all those cars aren't ramping up as quickly, leading to shortages of batteries, increased competition, restricted sales of some EV models, and potentially rising prices (or at least flattening their trend toward affordability).
Now Bloomberg reports that VW's deals for $56 billion worth of batteries for all those upcoming electric models are in jeopardy as Samsung cut its supply agreement with the automaker after disputes over timing.
Samsung was slated to supply batteries for up to 200,000 or more electric VWs based on assumptions by Bloomberg of 100-kilowatt-hour battery packs, a little bigger than those in the Audi e-tron that just went on sale, and the size of the largest batteries in Teslas. Since many of VW's will use smaller battery packs of 48 kwh, the change could affect many more cars.
2019 Audi e-tron battery pack
VW had named Samsung a supplier for electric models it plans to build in Europe, along with LG Chem (which supplies batteries for the Audi E-tron quattro), and SK Innovation—and for other markets, CATL. Reports have persisted since last fall of battery shortages and price disputes between VW and LG Chem that have affected production of the E-tron at Audi's factory in Belgium.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also named limitations of battery supplies from its partner Panasonic as a constraint on production of the Tesla Model 3.
A report from Benchmark Minerals in April showed that lithium-battery supplies could increase by 50 percent a year between now and 2023—that is, if the supply of battery materials can keep up.
Last year the Trump administration named lithium, cobalt, and other materials for electric-car batteries among "critical minerals" that the U.S. needs to develop domestically and for which it hopes to speed up mining permits.
Following the E-tron from VW's upscale Audi brand, the first electric car in VWs' new lineup of EVs is expected to be the ID 3, which is expected to go on sale late this year.