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The Critical Ingredients Needed to Fuel the Battery Boom

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The Battery Series
Part 4: Critical Ingredients Needed to Fuel the Battery Boom

The Battery Series is a five-part infographic series that explores what investors need to know about modern battery technology, including raw material supply, demand, and future applications.

Presented by: Nevada Energy Metals, eCobalt Solutions Inc., and Great Lakes Graphite

The Battery Series - Part 1The Battery Series - Part 2The Battery Series - Part 3The Battery Series - Part 4The Battery Series - Part 5

The Battery Series: The Critical Ingredients Needed to Fuel the Battery Boom

The Battery Series - Part 1The Battery Series - Part 2The Battery Series - Part 3The Battery Series - Part 4The Battery Series - Part 5

The Critical Ingredients Needed to Fuel the Battery Boom

We’ve already looked at the evolution of battery technology and how lithium-ion technology will dominate battery market share over the coming years. Part 4 of the Battery Series breaks down the raw materials that will be needed for this battery boom.

Batteries are more powerful and reliable than ever, and costs have come down dramatically over years. As a result, the market for electric vehicles is expected to explode to 20 million plug-in EV sales per year by 2030.

Sponsors
Nevada Energy Metals
eCobalt Solutions Inc.
Great Lakes Graphite

To power these vehicles, millions of new battery packs will need to be built. The lithium-ion battery market is expected to grow at a 21.7% rate annually in terms of the actual energy capacity required. It was 15.9 GWh in 2015, but will be a whopping 93.1 GWh by 2024.

Dissecting the Lithium-Ion

While there are many exciting battery technologies out there, we will focus on the innards of lithium-ion batteries as they are expected to make up the vast majority of the total rechargeable battery market for the near future.

Each lithium-ion cell contains three major parts:

1) Anode (natural or synthetic graphite)
2) Electrolyte (lithium salts
3) Cathode (differing formulations)

While the anode and electrolytes are pretty straightforward as far as lithium-ion technology goes, it is the cathode where most developments are being made.

Lithium isn’t the only metal that goes into the cathode – other metals like cobalt, manganese, aluminum, and nickel are also used in different formulations. Here’s four cathode chemistries, the metal proportions (excluding lithium), and an example of what they are used for:

Cathode TypeChemistryExample Metal PortionsExample Use
NCALiNiCoAlO280% Nickel, 15% Cobalt, 5% AluminumTesla Model S
LCOLiCoO2100% CobaltApple iPhone
LMOLiMn2O4100% ManganeseNissan Leaf
NMCLiNiMnCoO2Nickel 33.3%, Manganese 33.3%, Cobalt 33.3%Tesla Powerwall
LFPLiFePO4100% IronStarter batteries

While manganese and aluminum are important for lithium-ion cathodes, they are also cheaper metals with giant markets. This makes them fairly easy to procure for battery manufacturers.

Lithium, graphite, and cobalt, are all much smaller and less-established markets – and each has supply concerns that remain unanswered:

  • South America: The countries in the “Lithium Triangle” host a whopping 75% of the world’s lithium resources: Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia.
  • China: 65% of flake graphite is mined in China. With poor environmental and labor practices, China’s graphite industry has been under particular scrutiny – and some mines have even been shut down.
  • Indonesia: Price swings of nickel can impact battery makers. In 2014, Indonesia banned exports of nickel, which caused the price to soar nearly 50%.
  • DRC: 65% of all cobalt production comes from the DRC, a country that is extremely politically unstable with deeply-rooted corruption.
  • North America: Yet, companies such as Tesla have stated that they want to source 100% of raw materials sustainably and ethically from North America. The problem? Only nickel sees significant supply come from the continent.

Cobalt hasn’t been mined in the United States for 40 years, and the country produced zero tonnes of graphite in 2015. There is one lithium operation near the Tesla Gigafactory 1 site but it only produces 1,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year. That’s not nearly enough to fuel a battery boom of this size.

To meet its goal of a 100% North American raw materials supply chain, Tesla needs new resources to be discovered and extracted from the U.S., Canada, or Mexico.

Raw Material Demand

While all sorts of supply questions exist for these energy metals, the demand situation is much more straightforward.

Consumers are demanding more batteries, and each battery is made up of raw materials like cobalt, graphite, and lithium.

Cobalt:
Today, about 40% of cobalt is used to make rechargeable batteries. By 2019, it’s expected that 55% of total cobalt demand will go to the cause.

In fact, many analysts see an upcoming bull market in cobalt.

  • Battery demand is rising fast
  • Production is being cut from the Congo
  • A supply deficit is starting to emerge

“In many ways, the cobalt industry has the most fragile supply structure of all battery raw materials.” – Andrew Miller, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence

Graphite:
There is 54kg of graphite in every battery anode of a Tesla Model S (85kWh).

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence forecasts that the battery anode market for graphite (natural and synthetic) will at least triple in size from 80,000 tonnes in 2015 to at least 250,000 tonnes by the end of 2020.

Lithium:
Goldman Sachs estimates that a Tesla Model S with a 70kWh battery uses 63 kilograms of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) – more than the amount of lithium in 10,000 cell phones.

Further, for every 1% increase in battery electric vehicle (BEV) market penetration, there is an increase in lithium demand by around 70,000 tonnes LCE/year.

Lithium prices have recently spiked, but they may begin sliding in 2019 if more supply comes online.

The Future of Battery Tech

Sourcing the raw materials for lithium-ion batteries will be critical for our energy mix.

But, the future is also bright for many other battery technologies that could help in solving our most pressing energy issues.

Part 5 of The Battery Series will look at the newest technologies in the battery sector.

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Batteries

Visualizing Copper’s Role in the Transition to Clean Energy

A clean energy transition is underway as wind, solar, and batteries take center stage. Here’s how copper plays the critical role in these technologies.

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A future powered by renewables is not in the distant horizon, but rather in its early hours.

This new dawn comes from a global awareness of the environmental impacts of the current energy mix, which relies heavily on fossil fuels and their associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Technologies such as wind, solar, and batteries offer renewable and clean alternatives and are leading the way for the transition to clean energy. However, as with every energy transition, there are not only new technologies, but also new material demands.

Copper: A Key Piece of the Puzzle

This energy transition will be mineral intensive and it will require metals such as nickel, lithium, and cobalt. However, one metal stands out as being particularly important, and that is copper.

Today’s infographic comes to us from the Copper Development Association and outlines the special role of copper in renewable power generation, energy storage, and electric vehicles.

Copper and the Clean Energy Transition

Why Copper?

The red metal has four key properties that make it ideal for the clean energy transition.

  1. Conductivity
  2. Ductility
  3. Efficiency
  4. Recyclability

It is these properties that make copper the critical material for wind and solar technology, energy storage, and electric vehicles.

It’s also why, according to ThinkCopper, the generation of electricity from solar and wind uses four to six times more copper than fossil fuel sources.

Copper in Wind

A three-megawatt wind turbine can contain up to 4.7 tons of copper with 53% of that demand coming from the cable and wiring, 24% from the turbine/power generation components, 4% from transformers, and 19% from turbine transformers.

The use of copper significantly increases when going offshore. That’s because onshore wind farms use approximately 7,766 lbs of copper per MW, while an offshore wind installation uses 21,068 lbs of copper per MW.

It is the cabling of the offshore wind farms to connect them to each other and to deliver the power that accounts for the bulk of the copper usage.

Copper in Solar

Solar power systems can contain approximately 5.5 tons of copper per MW. Copper is in the heat exchangers of solar thermal units as well as in the wiring and cabling that transmits the electricity in photovoltaic solar cells.

Navigant Research projects that 262 GW of new solar installations between 2018 and 2027 in North America will require 1.9 billion lbs of copper.

Copper in Energy Storage

There are many ways to store energy, but every method uses copper. For example, a lithium ion battery contains 440 lbs of copper per MW and a flow battery 540 lbs of copper per MW.

Copper wiring and cabling connects renewable power generation with energy storage, while the copper in the switches of transformers help to deliver power at the right voltage.

Across the United States, a total of 5,752 MW of energy capacity has been announced and commissioned.

Copper in Electric Vehicles

Copper is at the heart of the electric vehicle (EV). This is because EVs rely on copper for the motor coil that drives the engine.

The more electric the car, the more copper it needs; a car powered by an internal combustion engine contains roughly 48 lbs, a hybrid needs 88 lbs, and a battery electric vehicle uses 184 lbs.

Additionally, the cabling for charging stations of electric vehicles will be another source of copper demand.

The Copper Future

Advances in technologies create new material demands.

Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that the transition to renewables is going to create demand for many minerals – and copper is going to be a critical mineral for the new era of energy.

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Automotive

How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

It is counterintuitive, but electric vehicles are not possible without oil – these petrochemicals bring down the weight of cars to make EVs possible.

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How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

When most people think about oil and natural gas, the first thing that comes to mind is the gas in the tank of their car. But there is actually much more to oil’s role, than meets the eye…

Oil, along with natural gas, has hundreds of different uses in a modern vehicle through petrochemicals.

Today’s infographic comes to us from American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers, and covers why oil is a critical material in making the EV revolution possible.

Pliable Properties

It turns out the many everyday materials we rely on from synthetic rubber to plastics to lubricants all come from petrochemicals.

The use of various polymers and plastics has several advantages for manufacturers and consumers:

  1. Lightweight
  2. Inexpensive
  3. Plentiful
  4. Easy to Shape
  5. Durable
  6. Flame Retardant

Today, plastics can make up to 50% of a vehicle’s volume but only 10% of its weight. These plastics can be as strong as steel, but light enough to save on fuel and still maintain structural integrity.

This was not always the case, as oil’s use has evolved and grown over time.

Not Your Granddaddy’s Caddy

Plastics were not always a critical material in auto manufacturing industry, but over time plastics such as polypropylene and polyurethane became indispensable in the production of cars.

Rolls Royce was one of the first car manufacturers to boast about the use of plastics in its car interior. Over time, plastics have evolved into a critical material for reducing the overall weight of vehicles, allowing for more power and conveniences.

Timeline:

  • 1916
    Rolls Royce uses phenol formaldehyde resin in its car interiors
  • 1941
    Henry Ford experiments with an “all-plastic” car
  • 1960
    About 20 lbs. of plastics is used in the average car
  • 1970
    Manufacturers begin using plastic for interior decorations
  • 1980
    Headlights, bumpers, fenders and tailgates become plastic
  • 2000
    Engineered polymers first appear in semi-structural parts of the vehicle
  • Present
    The average car uses over 1000 plastic parts

Electric Dreams: Petrochemicals for EV Innovation

Plastics and other materials made using petrochemicals make vehicles more efficient by reducing a vehicle’s weight, and this comes at a very reasonable cost.

For every 10% in weight reduction, the fuel economy of a car improves roughly 5% to 7%. EV’s need to achieve weight reductions because the battery packs that power them can weigh over 1000 lbs, requiring more power.

Today, plastics and polymers are used for hundreds of individual parts in an electric vehicle.

Oil and the EV Future

Oil is most known as a source of fuel, but petrochemicals also have many other useful physical properties.

In fact, petrochemicals will play a critical role in the mass adoption of electric vehicles by reducing their weight and improving their ranges and efficiency. In According to IHS Chemical, the average car will use 775 lbs of plastic by 2020.

Although it seems counterintuitive, petrochemicals derived from oil and natural gas make the major advancements by today’s EVs possible – and the continued use of petrochemicals will mean that both EVS and traditional vehicles will become even lighter, faster, and more efficient.

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