In China, Ford utilizes batteries made by a variety of manufacturers in its EVs, including CATL – that country’s largest battery manufacturer – in addition to its existing supplier in that market, BYD. The former company could very well provide the automaker with batteries for its North American EVs in the future as well, even as FoMoCo is also looking at vertical integration. Regardless, the company is looking to source Ford EV battery raw materials from ethical sources, but a new report from the New York Times discovered that those same Ford EV battery raw materials coming from China are likely being mined using forced labor.
In all fairness, this report doesn’t specifically mention Ford or any other company as recipients of these unethically sourced materials, but the findings do suggest that the use of forced labor in China is widespread. The source of these materials is China’s western Xinjiang region, where Communist authorities have detained and even imprisoned over a million Muslim minorities, training them to “love the party and the country,” according to this report.
China currently produces two-thirds of the world’s lithium-ion batteries, while virtually every metal needed to make those batteries is also processed in that country as well. Rather than rely on obtaining the raw materials needed for battery production from other countries, the Chinese government is instead using this forced labor to mine in the western part of its own country, though it denies such practices.
Regardless, minorities from the rural portions of south China are being sent to the north to work in mines and factories, sourcing lithium, nickel, manganese, beryllium, copper, and gold, some of which is then exported to other countries. It’s difficult to discern where, exactly, these materials have gone, but some have been sent other U.S., as well as the UK and India, to name a few, according to various documents.
To combat this, a new law is set to take effect in the U.S. this week dubbed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which will ban products made in Xinjiang or have ties to the work programs there from entering the country, and it also requires that importers show proof that their raw materials were not sourced using forced labor. With virtually every EV battery in existence having some sort of tie to China, this task could prove to be yet another major obstacle on the road to mass all-electric vehicle adoption.