Feds Impose Tariffs on Imports of Paper-Thin Steel Needed to Make EV Engines

(p. A3) Large U.S. steelmakers are ramping up production of a hard-to-make, paper-thin steel to capture a fast-growing market for a material critical to powering electric vehicles.

. . .

Such electrical steel, which accounts for about 1% of all the steel produced annually in the world, already is in short supply for electric vehicles, executives said. Companies expect demand to accelerate faster than production as EV volumes expand in the coming years.

“It’s in limited supply and with very long lead times. Sometimes 50 or 52 weeks,” said Hale Foote, owner of Scandic Springs Inc., a San Leandro, Calif., company that uses high-grade electrical steel to make parts for scientific measurement devices.

. . .

More than 80% of the electrical steel produced comes from China, Japan and South Korea, all countries that are subject to U.S. tariffs or quotas on steel imports, industry analysts said.

. . .

(p. B2) “It takes intense focus. You have to have absolute consistency or you scrap the material,” said David Stickler, who led the investment group that built Big River Steel in Osceola, Ark., and then sold the mill to U.S. Steel in 2021. Mr. Stickler said he envisioned electrical steel being a core product at Big River when he started planning the mill nearly a decade ago.

. . .

Steel-industry executives said that creating more domestic capacity to make electrical steel for vehicles will likely take years, as steel companies acquire equipment and become proficient at the exacting production process.

“You can’t just buy the equipment and start making electrical steel. Those who’ve made the investment will have an advantage for the next five to 10 years,” Mr. Stickler said.

For the full story, see:

Tita, Bob. “Paper-Thin Steel Used to Power EVs Is in Short Supply.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, March 28, 2023): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added. The online version is longer, but the passages quoted above appear in both versions.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 27, 2023, and has the title “The Paper-Thin Steel Needed to Power Electric Cars Is in Short Supply.”)

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