European leaders have complained for years that the United States is not doing enough to combat climate change. Now that the Biden administration has committed hundreds of billions of dollars to the cause, many Europeans are complaining that the United States is going about it the wrong way.

This new criticism stems from a deep fear in Germany, France, Britain and other European countries that Washington’s move will hurt allies it should work with and lure away much new investment in electric car and battery factories that are not yet destined for it. China, South Korea and other Asian countries.

That concern is the main reason some European leaders, including Germany’s second-highest official Robert Habeck, have made their way to Vasteras, a town about 60 miles from Stockholm that is best known for its Viking mound and Gothic cathedral.

Officials traveled there to court one of Europe’s few battery companies, Northvolt. Northvolt, led by a former Tesla executive, is a small player in the global battery industry, but European leaders are offering it hundreds of millions of euros to build factories in Europe. Mr Habeck visited in February to lobby the company to push ahead with its plan to build a factory near Hamburg, Germany. The company considered postponing its investment in the United States.

“It’s definitely attractive to be in America right now,” Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt’s environmental director, said in an interview last month in Vasteras. Northvolt declined to comment in detail on discussions about the Hamburg plant, which the firm committed to in May.

The dispute over Northvolt’s plans is an example of the intense, and some European officials say, counterproductive competition between the United States and Europe as they scramble to acquire the building blocks of electric vehicle manufacturing to avoid becoming dependent on China, which dominates battery supplies. chain.

Auto experts said tax breaks and other incentives offered by President Biden’s flagship climate policy, the Inflation Reduction Act, have siphoned off some investment from Europe and put pressure on European countries to offer their own incentives.

The United States has created a “massive subsidy race,” said Cecilia Malmstrom, the former European trade commissioner, during a panel discussion last month at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. She called on leaders to “invest together in the green transition and not compete with each other”.

Biden officials argued that American and European policies were complementary. They noted that government and private money poured into electric cars and batteries would lower prices for car buyers and put more zero-emissions vehicles on the road.

U.S. officials add that construction of battery factories and plants to process lithium and other materials is booming on both sides of the Atlantic.

Government efforts to promote electric vehicles “will promote a degree of technological innovation and cost reduction that will benefit not only Europe and the United States, but also the global economy and our global efforts to meet the challenge of climate change.” Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Minister of Finance, said in a recent interview.

The Biden administration has too spoke to European officials on allowing cars made with European battery materials and components to qualify for US tax credits. And the administration interpreted it IRAwhich Mr. Biden signed in August to leave room for producers in Europe and elsewhere.

“You see less concern from Europe that these companies might be lured away from Europe to America,” said Abigail Wulf, who directs the Center for Critical Minerals Strategy at the nonprofit SAFE.

Still, the law forced European leaders to introduce new industrial policies.

In March, the European Commission, the European Union’s administrative arm, proposed the Critical Raw Materials Act, legislation to secure supplies of lithium, nickel and other battery materials. One piece of legislation requires the EU to process at least 40 percent of the raw materials needed by the automotive industry within its own borders. The 27-nation alliance has also enabled countries to provide greater financial support to suppliers and manufacturers.

The money the United States and Europe are pouring into electric vehicles will boost sales, said Julia Poliscanova, senior director of Transport & Environment in Brussels. The legislation, which will need the approval of the European Parliament and EU leaders, would also bring some coherence to the fragmented politics of national governments, she said.

But Ms Poliscan added that European and US policies risk canceling each other out. “Because everyone’s getting bigger at the same time, it’s a zero-sum game,” she said.

Business managers have complained that applications for financial aid in Europe are bureaucratic and slow. The law to cut inflation with an emphasis on tax breaks is easier and faster, said Tom Einar Jensen, chief executive of battery maker Freyr, which is building a factory in Mo i Rana in northern Norway and plans to build more. races in Finland and near Atlanta.

The IRA has spurred “a dramatic increase in interest in US-made batteries,” Jensen said in an interview.

The future of European car manufacturing is at risk, especially for German companies. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen have already lost market share in China to local automakers such as BYD. Chinese automakers, including BYD and SAIC, are also gaining ground in Europe. Sale of cars etc British brand MGSAIC has amassed 5 percent of the European electric vehicle market, putting it ahead of Toyota and Ford in this fast-growing segment.

European automakers are frantically trying to build the supply chains they need to churn out electric vehicles.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron wants to turn the northern region, where factory jobs are falling, into a battery manufacturing hub.

On Tuesday, the Automotive Cells Company, a joint venture between Stellantis, Mercedes-Benz and TotalEnergies, inaugurated a factory in Billy-Berclau Douvrin, France, which aims to produce 300,000 electric batteries per year by the end of 2024. ACC also plans to invest a total of 7.3 billion euros, or $7.8 billion, in Europe, including the opening of factories in Germany and Italy, a deal backed by 1.3 billion euros in public aid.

In Salzgitter, Germany, about 25 miles from Volkswagen’s headquarters, steel girders tower over concrete foundations while excavators and dump trucks rumble nearby. Within months, the outlines of a battery factory emerged from the field.

Volkswagen hopes to have the battery-making machines installed by the end of the summer. By 2025, the automaker wants to produce battery cells for up to 500,000 electric vehicles a year — something the company says is only possible because the factory was built on land it owned.

Volkswagen is also building a plant in Ontario, but the company decided to do so only after the Canadian government matched the U.S. incentives.

In Guben, a small town on the German border with Poland, the Canadian company Rock Tech Lithium is building a lithium ore processing plant. Mercedes has an agreement with Rock Tech to supply lithium to its battery manufacturers.

These projects will reach full production in a few years. Recently, the Guben site was an open field. The only construction activity was a truck dumping a load of crushed rock, making a dirty squeal.

Europe has some advantages, including strong demand for electric cars: About 14 percent of new cars sold in the EU in the first three months of this year were battery-powered, twice as many as in the United States, according to Schmidt Automotive Research.

But if Europe doesn’t move quickly to help the battery industry, “you’re really going to lose momentum on the ground compared to the North American market,” said Dirk Harbecke, CEO of Rock Tech.

Chinese battery companies have largely avoided the United States for fear of political backlash. However, Chinese battery firms have announced investments worth $17.5 billion in Europe since 2018, according to Mercator Institute for China Studies and Rhodium Group.

Political tensions between Western governments and China have put German automakers in a delicate position. They don’t want to be overly dependent on Chinese supplies, but they can’t afford to upset the Chinese government.

BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo plan to buy cells from the factory in ArnstadtGermany, driving CATLa Chinese company that is currently the world’s largest manufacturer of batteries for electric cars.

To offset their reliance on Chinese suppliers, European executives and leaders want to work with Northvolt, whose CEO Peter Carlsson has overseen Tesla’s supply chain for more than four years.

Northvolt wants to control all steps of battery production, including refining the lithium and recycling old cells. This should help Europe achieve supply chain independence and ensure batteries are produced in the greenest possible way, said Ms Nehrenheim, who is also a member of Northvolt’s board. “We are removing the risk for Europe,” she said.

The company develops production techniques at its complex in Vasteras. Northvolt’s first full-scale factory at a site in Sweden 125 miles south of the Arctic Circle chosen for its abundant hydropower is the size of the Pentagon. Northvolt also plans to build a factory in the US, but has yet to announce a location.

Still, the company is ramping up production and, according to consulting firm SNE Research, is not among the world’s top 10 battery suppliers. And construction of its Hamburg plant is on hold until EU officials approve German subsidies.

Ana Swanson and Liz Alderman contributed reporting.

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