Electrification is a key enabler of the EU’s Green Deal plan, and the European Commission, Parliament and EU member states have made remarkable commitments to phase out combustion-driven vehicles and move toward full-electric fleets -- as well as an ambition to build a circular EV production system in Europe.
However, a lot remains unknown about how this enormous demand will be met.
The chemicals industry has a clear role to play, given it supplies several technologies critical to building EVs. From components used in electric motors to battery packs, power electronics, technical textiles, heat pumps and cooling systems – these applications rely heavily on fluorinated chemistry, which is now at risk of being banned in Europe.
Earlier this year, the EU published its draft restriction proposal for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which represent thousands of diverse fluorinated chemicals, many of which are essential for modern life.
The draft represents the broadest chemical restriction proposal in the history of the EU and does not consider the vastly different profiles of chemistries included in its scope.
If the proposal were adopted as is, it would have major consequences on the automotive sector, where fluorinated chemistries are vital to everything from EV battery production, faster charging, increased range size, heating and cooling, to sourcing, supply chains, distribution and logistics.
According to a recent socioeconomic analysis, the potential effects of a PFAS ban in mobile air conditioning alone -- where no viable alternatives are available -- were estimated at more than 200 billion euros over a 10 year period (profit and social costs).
Multiply that across all applications and effectively, the proposal could kill Europe’s auto industry.
Fluorinated gases (f-gases) have regrettably been included in scope of the PFAS restriction proposal despite their favorable safety and sustainability profiles.