Demand for nickel, cobalt and lithium is rising, and could create shortages for EV manufacturers

Photo: Tesla

Photo: Tesla

By Nicholas Yekikian

The rise in electric vehicle sales has also meant an increase in the need for cobalt, nickel and lithium – the essential minerals that go into the manufacturing of batteries. EV’s are no longer just a wave or a trend, they’re destined to become the next norm in the automotive world.

Tesla is working to build its own battery factories to reduce its dependence on Panasonic’s batteries and Toyota recently signed a deal where they would be supplied by Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL) – in addition to the partnerships it already had in place with BYD and Panasonic.

Two weeks ago, Reuters reported that “VW has said it will buy 50 billion euros worth of battery cells and has identified Sweden’s Northvolt, South Korea’s SKI, LG Chem, and Samsung SDI as well as China’s CATL as strategic partners.”

There is a mad dash for EV batteries playing out in the automotive world, and it’s happening right now. According to the consultants at Wood Mackenzie, electric and hybrid-electric vehicle sales were up more than  24% last year. The consulting firm also estimates that global electric vehicle sales with a plug will account for 7% of all passenger car sales by 2025, 14% by 2030 and 38% by 2040. Demand for the precious metals that power all of these cars is now going through the roof, and that could cause major roadblocks for any automaker’s EV plans.

Woodmac estimates that lithium demand will grow from 233 kilatons (kt) in 2017 to 405 kt by 2022. By that same year Woodmac says cobalt demand from batteries alone to reach 98 kt – that equates to 61% of the cobalt market. 

According to iamrenew, the battery sector is going to make up more than 80% of total lithium demand by 2030. Woodmac also said that nickel production could slow in the mid 2020’s and that new mines for the material need to open up now, as they can take the better part of 10 years to fully develop.


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