You've gotta hand it to Porsche lately. With all of the talk of an electric vehicle slowdown this year, you'd think it would be easy for a brand so defined by its internal combustion engines to reverse course a bit and hold off on an EV transition. But according to one Porsche board member, that's not actually the case.

Welcome to this Monday edition of Critical Materials, our morning roundup of the latest auto industry and technology news. Also on tap today: the Geely Group is feeling the pain from the anti-China tariffs, and we may soon see some promising advancements with silicon-powered batteries. Let's dig in.

30%: Porsche Sticks To Its Guns On EVs

2024 Porsche Macan EV

2024 Porsche Macan EV

Some automakers truly get that the future, one way or another, will be far less dependent on the internal combustion engine. Others have to be dragged kicking and screaming to get there, or will take any opportunity they can find to get out of it. This shouldn't be surprising; transitioning often century-old businesses full of engine know-how to one focused on batteries and software is no easy task. Not every company or leadership team is up for it.

Not so with Porsche, apparently. In an interview with Germany's Automobilwoche that was cited by Reuters today, one board member reaffirmed plans to end production of the gas-powered Macan crossover and to take the successor(s) to the Boxster and Cayman fully electric as well. 

From the story:

Porsche executive board member Albrecht Reimold said that the petrol-powered version of SUV model Macan for non-European markets would be produced no longer than 2026. "The platform has reached the end of its cycle," said Reimold.

[...] Combustion engine versions of Boxster and Cayman sports cars, a model range known as 718, would no longer be produced from some time next year and the company is already focused on electric versions to be launched next year, Reimold added.

As I wrote when the Macan EV debuted, it took guts (and brains) to take such an important model fully electric. The Macan is a true moneymaker for Porsche and staking its future on battery power was a pretty bold bet. And while the 718 twins' sales haven't exactly been as hot as the original Boxster was back in the 1990s, the entry-level sports cars remain fan favorites and important parts of the lineup. Porsche is really throwing down the gauntlet by taking those electric. But as we've seen with the vastly improved 2025 Taycan—and the original one pretty terrific too—Porsche seems serious about all of this.

Granted, it's far, far more reluctant to go fully electric with the 911, so much so that it's leading the way on e-fuels in an attempt to try and keep some form of internal combustion alive. But the new 911 is also a hybrid, so Porsche's clearly got some interesting up its sleeve with that model.

Either way, Porsche's moves here prove that not every so-called "legacy" automaker is getting skittish if global EV sales prove to be more up and down than expected.

60%: China's Geely 'Taking Hits Far And Wide' Over New Tariffs

Volvo EX30

Volvo EX30

Hot Tariff Summer is here, folks. The U.S. was first to hit China-made EVs with new 100% tariffs, and now the European Union is hammering those cars as well. Both world powers are spooked by the prospect of super-affordable Chinese EVs coming into their markets and undercutting the hometown players—something that's still a remote possibility in America but is playing out in Europe right now. 

So far, the company that may be getting hit the worst by the new tariffs is the Geely Group. I call Geely a kind of "stealth fighter" around here; it owns a huge portfolio of well-known brands like Volvo and Lotus, plus newer players like Polestar and Zeekr. Yet few people know about their Chinese roots. And thanks to all of those acquisitions, Geely has EV manufacturing footprints all over the world.

Yet Geely clearly planned to slip China-made EVs into its other markets, and now those plans are getting derailed buy these new tariffs. The Volvo EX30 has already been delayed in the U.S. by a year until it can be built in Belgium, but other Geely family members are being hit as well.

Some highlights from a Bloomberg story:

Geely Holding, the automotive empire overseen by billionaire Li Shufu, has the most extensive international footprint among China’s emergent carmakers. Its stable of brands includes Sweden’s Volvo and their jointly owned EV offshoot, Polestar; Smart, the small-car marque co-owned and operated with Mercedes-Benz; and Lotus, the British racing icon.

Geely voiced its disappointment with the EU’s decision and pointed back to its extensive investments in Europe over the last 20 years. But while Geely’s broader global presence gives it greater flexibility to respond to tariffs relative to BYD and SAIC — the two other Chinese carmakers scrutinized in the EU’s anti-subsidy investigation — it’s still feeling tariff pain at various points within its sprawling network.

Perhaps even more concerning is the toll that rising trade tensions will take on Polestar, which posted a $1.46 billion operating loss last year and another $232 million deficit for the first quarter.

The EU’s tariffs also are hitting Smart, which has undergone a makeover since Mercedes teamed up with Geely in 2019 and hitched its future to China. Their first joint effort, the #1, launched last year with a starting price of €37,490 ($40,600). Geely builds the car at its plant in the central Chinese city of Xi’an.

So what's the plan here? Probably that Geely is going to have to focus on more local production in non-Chinese markets, or in politically more friendly places like South Korea. But that's a balancing act as well:

“For the Chinese manufacturers, they essentially have two choices in the long term,” Zhang said. “They can continue to export from China to the EU and adjust pricing for the higher tariffs, or they increase production in Europe, which is also more expensive than in China.” Ultimately, it’s a cost-balancing exercise to determine which is more profitable, he said.

Geely doesn't just have global ambitions. It's already there. But this tough anti-China sentiment means it's got to figure out Plan B for a lot of models. 

90%: Getting Closer On Silicon-Powered Batteries?

Sila Nanotechnologies facility in Moses Lake, Washington state

Sila Nanotechnologies facility in Moses Lake, Washington state

High-silicon electrodes are a battery breakthrough that should lead to better range and faster charging. And we may soon see some concrete products soon that use those batteries, reports The Information's Steve LeVine today:

Sila Nanotechnologies and Group14 Technologies say they are almost ready to begin high-volume commercial shipments of their competing silicon electrodes. Sila CEO Gene Berdichevsky said that in a little over a year, the company would ship commercial-grade silicon anodes to four customers, including Mercedes-Benz, Panasonic, which makes batteries for Tesla and other EV makers, and two other automotive companies.

California-based Sila will manufacture the anodes at a gigafactory it is building in Moses Lake, Wash. Group14, based in Woodinville, Wash., will ship silicon anodes to three undisclosed EV and EV battery customers by the end of this year from a gigafactory it’s building with battery maker SK On in South Korea, said Group14 CEO Rick Luebbe. 

Mercedes is the only automaker to announce publicly that it will use such anodes. A Mercedes spokesperson told me the company will offer Sila’s electrodes as an option in its ultraluxury G-Class SUVs in the “mid-decade,” though declined to specify a year. Renault may be next: In an interview last week, Philippe Brunet, senior vice president of EV and powertrain for Ampère, Renault's parent company, told me the French carmaker would deploy silicon anodes in the next few years, but declined to say who would be the supplier.

That story notes that as the whole industry is chasing cheaper, "good enough" batteries—think LFP—these silicon-anode batteries could command a premium at first, hence why Mercedes is eager to deploy them:

In recent months, automakers have made clear that they care most about cost. Berdichevsky and Luebbe argue that they can compete with graphite, but they also appear to want a premium price for their anodes’ better performance. It’s not a surprise that the first commercial vehicle to use the anodes will be an ultraluxury Mercedes. Berdichevsky noted that consumers pay more for the iPhone than for most other brands because many view it as a superior product. And both he and Luebbe argued that the automakers are likely to charge more for vehicles that go farther and charge faster because of their anode. “They can charge a really nice premium because charge anxiety is the single biggest inhibitor to EV adoption right now,” Luebbe said.

100%: Who's Got The Best Electric Transition Strategy So Far?

Porsche Macan Turbo (2024) put to the test

Porsche Macan Turbo 2024

Now that we're midway through 2024, who's getting the electric transition right? Who's stumbling more than the others here?

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