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.
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.
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 Type||Chemistry||Example Metal Portions||Example Use|
|NCA||LiNiCoAlO2||80% Nickel, 15% Cobalt, 5% Aluminum||Tesla Model S|
|LCO||LiCoO2||100% Cobalt||Apple iPhone|
|LMO||LiMn2O4||100% Manganese||Nissan Leaf|
|NMC||LiNiMnCoO2||Nickel 33.3%, Manganese 33.3%, Cobalt 33.3%||Tesla Powerwall|
|LFP||LiFePO4||100% Iron||Starter 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.
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
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.
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.
Animation: The Entire History of Tesla in 5 Minutes
Everything you need to know about the history of Tesla, including Elon Musk’s vision for the future of the iconic electric car company.
How did Tesla accelerate from 0-60 mph in such a short period of time?
Today’s five-minute-long animation is presented in association with Global Energy Metals, and it tells you everything you need to know about the history of Tesla, including Elon Musk’s vision for the future of the iconic electric car company.
Watch the video:
The video primarily keys in on Tesla’s successes and the setbacks the company has faced along the way – it also shows that Tesla was able to pass Ford in market value just seven years after the company’s IPO.
The Rise of Tesla Series
The above video is the culmination of our Rise of Tesla Series, which also includes three full-length infographics that tell a more in-depth story about the history of Tesla, and what the company aspires to:
1. Tesla’s Origin Story (View infographic)
- What was the vision behind the founding of Tesla?
- Early hurdles faced by the company, including its near escape from the brink of bankruptcy
- Elon Musk’s takeover of the company, and the dramatic actions taken to keep it alive
- A timeline showing the development of the Roadster, and why this first car matters
2. Tesla’s Journey: How it Passed Ford in Value (View Infographic)
- The company’s plan to parlay the Roadster’s success into a viable long-term company strategy
- Introducing the Tesla Model S and Model X
- How the company would use the Gigafactory concept to bring economies of scale to battery production
- Other milestones: Powerwall, Autopilot, and Tesla’s growing Supercharger network
- The announcement of the Model 3
3. Elon Musk’s Vision for the Future of Tesla (View Infographic)
- Detailing Tesla’s ambitions for the future, including how it plans to productize the factory
- Other vehicles Tesla plans to release, including the Tesla Semi and a future ultra low cost model
- How Tesla plans to combine fully autonomous cars with the future sharing economy
- Exploding demand for lithium-ion batteries, and why Tesla is planning on building additional Gigafactories
How Much Copper is in an Electric Vehicle?
Have you ever wondered how much copper is in an electric vehicle? This infographic shows the metal’s properties as well as the quantity of copper used.
How Much Copper is in an Electric Vehicle?
Copper’s special relationship with electricity has been apparent since ship designers first regularly began installing copper to protect the masts of wooden ships from lightning in the early 19th century.
Today, of course, you might be more used to seeing copper’s electrical applications through the use of power lines, telephone wires, and wiring in practically every major home appliance you own.
Millions of tons get used for these applications every year, but it is still early days for copper’s use in electrification. That’s because copper will continue to be a critical component of the green energy revolution, thanks to the rising adoption of battery-powered vehicles.
Today’s visualization comes to us from Canadian Platinum Corp., and it focuses on showing how much copper is in an electric vehicle, along with the properties that make it the ideal choice for an EV-powered future.
Here is why copper is a crucial component to vehicle manufacturers:
Copper costs roughly $0.20 per ounce, compared to silver ($15/oz) and gold ($1200/oz), making it by far the cheapest option for electrical wire.
Copper is nearly as conductive as silver – the most conductive metal – but comes at a fraction of the cost.
Copper can easily be shaped into wire, which is important for most electrical applications.
It’s also important to note that temperature does not affect copper’s conductivity, which makes the metal ideal for automobiles in all climates.
Copper in Gas vs. Electric Vehicles
The UBS Evidence Lab tore apart a traditional gas-powered vehicle as well as an EV to compare the different quantities of raw materials used.
What they found was crucial: there is 80% more copper in a Chevrolet Bolt, in comparison to a similar-sized Volkswagen Golf.
The major reason for this is that at the heart of every EV is an electric motor, which is built with copper, steel, and permanent magnets (rare earths). Electric motors tend to be much simpler than gas-powered engines, which have hundreds of moving parts.
Incredibly, in an electric motor, there can be more than a mile of copper wiring inside the stator.
The More Electric, the More Copper
According to Copper.org, along the scale from gas-powered cars to fully electrical vehicles, copper use increases dramatically.
Conventional gas-powered cars contain 18 to 49 lbs. of copper while a battery-powered EV contains 183 lbs. Meanwhile, for a fully electrical bus, a whopping 814 lbs. of copper is needed.
With the rapidly increasing adoption of electric vehicles, copper will be an essential material for the coming electrification of all forms of ground transport.
Copper is at the heart of the electric vehicle and the world will need more. By 2027, copper demand stemming from EVs is expected to increase by 1.7 million tonnes, which is a number just shy of China’s entire copper production in 2017.
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