Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Jun 1, 2023

The Inconvenient Truths About EV Batteries


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Adam Jonas, Head of Morgan Stanley's Global Auto and Shared Mobility Team. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today we'll be talking about the global EV battery supply chain. It is Thursday, June 1st at 9 a.m. in New York. 

The rapid adoption of electric vehicles has brought to investor attention some rather inconvenient truths. We all know EVs require batteries, but today's battery supply chain involves some high environmental externalities, emissions, water usage, labor practices. And 70 to 90% of the upstream battery supply chain runs through the People's Republic of China. Re-architecting and on-shoring the EV battery supply chain is easier said than done. 

In our recent Global Insights report, we introduced a framework centered on two core variables. One, the rate of EV adoption, faster versus slower, and two EV supply chain sourcing, China dependent versus more diversified. At the crux of our analysis is the tradeoff between near-term EV penetration and on-shoring policies. Billions of taxpayer dollars are being thrown at an industry where the technology is still in its early stages of finding scalable industrial standards. Even as mineral extraction, refining and battery assembly all occurred on-shore, you still have to consider that battery manufacturing involves high carbon emissions and EVs require more energy intensive metals vis-à-vis internal combustion vehicles. 

We explore three scenarios across our framework. First, the China case, which entails rapid EV penetration, increasing the West's dependance on China. Second, the derisking case, which entails a more diversified supply chain with rapid even adoption requiring significant policy action. And third, the slow EV case, where the focus on on-shoring translates to more gradual EV adoption and continued prevalence of internal combustion vehicles versus market expectations. 

With this report, I brought together my research colleagues across autos, batteries, mining and clean tech, to assess implications for sectors and stocks that are better positioned or more challenged based on our scenario framework. We assess policy gaps and break down CapEx spend totaling up to 7 to $10 trillion. In our view, it may require well over a decade to achieve industrialization and standardization, gated by a host of geopolitical, environmental and economic considerations. If we're going to make batteries in the West, we're going to have to make them differently. The materials must be sourced, processed and refined far more sustainably. 

So we ask what is the new fracking equivalent for lithium? The lithium ion battery is the most consequential technology for decarbonizing transportation. Yet lithium is associated with supply shortages, intensive water consumption and permitting bottlenecks. Technologies that mitigate carbon emissions do exist, like direct lithium extraction, battery recycling, solid state batteries and others. But the journey of U.S. and European battery on-shoring will involve scaling these technologies. This is where innovation levered by the private sector and accelerated by the taxpayer can play a deterministic role. 

So who wins in a rewired battery supply chain? Ultimately, we think it'll be those firms that employ cost efficient and environmentally sustainable technologies in strategically beneficial geographies. 

Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show. 

With the rapid adoption of electric vehicles, onshoring the critical battery supply chain poses significant challenges and will drive sizable investments. Adam Jonas, Head of Morgan Stanley's Global Auto and Shared Mobility Team, explains.