Solar panel exports from China grew by 34% in the first half of 2023, with 114 gigawatts (GW) shipped worldwide, compared to 85 GW in the same period last year, according to a new analysis by energy think tank Ember. We need to get them online ASAP.
Chinese solar exports represent around 80% of the global market share in solar manufacturing capacity, so, of course, it has major global implications for scaling up renewable deployment.
“Solar growth is going through the roof,” said Sam Hawkins, Ember’s data lead. “The world is racing to harness this cheap, clean, and abundant source of energy to power the future economy. It is clear that global manufacturing capacity is currently not the limiting factor to achieving the required fivefold growth in solar power by 2030.”
More than half of the solar panels exported from China in the first half of 2023 were headed for Europe (52.5%). The region also saw the greatest absolute growth worldwide, with exports from China up 47% year-on-year (+21 GW), reaching a total of 65 GW shipped in the first half of 2023, compared with 44 GW in the same period last year. Once installed, this new capacity could provide around 2% of Europe’s annual electricity demand – similar to the demand of Belgium.
Brazil is the next biggest importer after Europe, importing 9.5 GW in the first six months of 2023, a similar amount to the same period last year (9.4 GW). However, the fastest growth is happening across Africa and the Middle East.
South Africa saw the largest change in any country outside of Europe, importing 3.4 GW of solar panels from China in the first six months of 2023, an increase of 438% (+2.7 GW) compared to the same period last year. As a result, Africa was up 187% (+3.7 GW), the fastest-growing region.
The Middle East was the region with the next-fastest relative growth, up 64% (+2.4 GW) in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period last year. However, its high growth rates have a very low starting point. Saudi Arabia increased solar imports from China sixfold year-over-year to reach 2.8 GW in the first half of 2023, while the United Arab Emirates increased imports by 33% to 1.4 GW.
The only region to see fewer imports from China over the period was Asia, as India turned to focus on growing domestic manufacturing capacity.
The US has already cut Chinese imports to near-zero – sourcing instead from Southeast Asia – and the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act has spurred significant domestic investments in solar panel manufacturing capacity.
With global manufacturing capacity expected to double again by the end of 2024 compared to the end of 2022, as other countries outside China also step up domestic manufacturing, the global supply of panels isn’t what’s bottlenecking solar growth – it’s installed PV capacity. There’s an astounding 40 GW buildup of solar panel stock in European warehouses thanks to bureaucracy, a lack of solar installers, and a long wait to get it on the grid.
“We have enough solar panels, we just need to get busy installing them,” said Sam Hawkins, data lead at Ember. “Policies should focus on ensuring installation and grid integration can ramp up as fast as global module supply.”
The European Parliament attempted today to alleviate the years-long solar bottleneck, as it approved a requirement that EU nations complete the approval process for renewable projects within 12 months for installations in “areas conducive to renewables” and within 24 months for projects outside of those areas.
In the UK, some new solar and wind projects are expected to wait 10-15 years because the grid isn’t ready to bring them online, and that timeframe is ridiculous. That makes 12-24 months look like something to celebrate.
Photo: China News Service
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Volkswagen cites slow demand amid EV production cuts at German plants
Amid several reports that Volkswagen is cutting EV production at two German plants, the automaker revealed the reason – slowing demand.
Volkswagen suspends EV production in Germany
Last week, a report from the German newspaper Automobilwoche claimed Volkswagen was pausing EV production at its Dresden facility in Germany.
Volkswagen’s Dresden facility has built over 150,000 VW Phaeton, e-Golf, ID.3, and Bentley Flying Spur models since beginning production in 2002. Last year, 6,500 ID.3 EVs were built at the location.
The automaker will temporarily suspend ID.3 production at the plant for two weeks during the Saxon autumn holidays, as first reported by Germany’s DPA news. Starting October 16, the electric car will be built again in regular single-shift operation.
Dresden’s roughly 300 employees will be reassigned to other areas, including “innovative manufacturing and testing.”
Meanwhile, at Volkswagen’s main BEV plant in Zwichau, one of the two production lines will shut down during the holidays, according to a spokesperson (via Automobilwoche).
The news comes after VW announced at a staff meeting earlier this month it would be cutting 269 temporary jobs at the site.
Although Volkswagen’s ID.3 and Cupra Born will be impacted by the halt, ID.4, ID.5, Audi Q4 e-tron, and Audi Q4 sportback e-tron models will continue regular production in three shifts.
Volkswagen is discussing with local labor reps how to proceed with EV production at the Zwickau plant.
The company did not specify how many units or employees would be affected by the changes.
Volkswagen is struggling to attract new EV orders amid higher inflation and weaning subsidies in Europe. Europe’s largest automaker also faces a growing threat from more advanced EV competitors like Tesla and BYD.
The core Volkswagen brand faces pressure as cheaper, more advanced EVs are taking market share at home and abroad.
In Volkswagen’s largest market by revenue (China), the automaker was surpassed by BYD as the best-selling car brand earlier this year.
In the wake of slowing demand, VW slashed ID.3 and ID.4 prices in the region. But how long can VW keep this up?
Volkswagen Group CEO Oliver Blume aims to boost VW brand returns to 6.5% over the next three years. Currently, it’s around 3.6%.
With EV makers like Tesla, BYD, and several other Chinese start-ups expanding rapidly, Volkswagen will need to act urgently to risk falling further behind.
Honda’s new electric sports car will debut next month, hinting at an NSX successor EV
At the Japan Mobility Show next month, Honda will showcase several new products and tech, including a new electric sports car that will headline the booth.
The new electric sports car will “enable the driver to experience the pure joy of driving,” according to Honda.
Although the automaker was light on the details behind the project, it claims the concept will represent “Honda’s continuous pursuit of the joy of driving” while embodying Honda’s universal sports mindset and distinctive characteristics.
Also ready to make an appearance at the booth is Honda’s SUSTAINA-C Concept and Pocket Concept, designed to use limited resources.
Both models are made of recycled and reused acrylic resin with the idea of “resource circulation” for environmental sustainability and future mobility freedom.
Other EV products set to make their world debut include the Honda CI-MEV. The two-seat, four-wheel mini EV uses Honda’s cooperative intelligence (CI) and automated driving for last-mile deliveries and areas with limited mobility options.
A prototype of Honda’s new commercial-use mini EV with a portable external power output device, Power Exporter e: 6000, will also be displayed.
Honda to unveil new electric sports car
Honda revealed plans to launch 30 new EV models globally by the end of the decade, including at least two electric sports cars.
One will be a specialty model, while the other will be a flagship. Speculation suggests one of the models will be an NSX, a two-seater sports coupe (An Acura model in North America), with the other being a GT.
Honda teased the upcoming electric sports cars under wraps, showing a low-profile vehicle with a similar body design to the NSX.
According to the British automotive magazine Car, Honda’s EV performance car will ride on the automaker e:n platform, featured in its e:Ny1 electric SUV.
The EV could also wear the Type R badge, as Honda’s technical consultant, Kotaro Yamamoto, said, “Type R stands for racing. It’s a pleasure transported. An electric car can deliver this, and a Type R is not obliged to use a combustion engine. Even in a fully electric society, there will still be Type Rs delivering ultimate driving pleasure.”
Other than that, Honda is keeping the details under wraps. We’ll learn more about the electric performance car next month.
The electric sports car will make its world debut at the Japan Mobility Show, running from October 28 to November 5, 2023. Media days will be October 25-26.
Is this the production Tesla Cybertruck?
New Tesla Cybertrucks, rumored to be “Master Candidates,” the final step before production, have been spotted coming out of Gigafactory Texas.
For the past month, Tesla has had full and at times, partial shutdowns, of production at Gigafactory Texas as it conducted factory upgrades.
Yesterday, a drone video shot by Joe Tegtmeyer confirmed that workers are now coming back to the factory.
The video showed new Model Y bodies coming out of the factory and new Cybertrucks.
There have been rumors that the shutdown at Gigafactory Texas might have been linked to the start of Cybertruck production.
Tegtmeyer, who often gets to talk to Giga Texas employees as he flyes drones there almost daily, claims that the new Cybertrucks spotted coming out of the factory are “Master Candidates,” the last step before production.
While it can’t be confirmed if they are master candidates or production versions, the two Cybertrucks spotted at the factory did look a lot more refined than the previously spotted prototypes:
The trims and fittings seem to blend better with the stainless steel body of the electric pickup truck.
While we can’t judge the vehicle’s fit and finish too closely because the footage is taken from a distance with a drone, the looks of those two Cybertrucks are encouraging.
Tesla is expected to officially start Cybertruck production any day now with deliveries to start at an event likely within the next month.
More Cybertrucks have been spotted parked at the homes of Tesla employees, which is a good sign that internal testing has expanded.
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