The Critical Ingredients Needed to Fuel the Battery Boom
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 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.
Mapped: Renewable Energy and Battery Installations in the U.S. in 2023
This graphic describes new U.S. renewable energy installations by state along with nameplate capacity, planned to come online in 2023.
Renewable and Battery Installations in the U.S. in 2023
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Renewable energy, in particular solar power, is set to shine in 2023. This year, the U.S. plans to get over 80% of its new energy installations from sources like battery, solar, and wind.
The above map uses data from EIA to highlight planned U.S. renewable energy and battery storage installations by state for 2023.
Texas and California Leading in Renewable Energy
Nearly every state in the U.S. has plans to produce new clean energy in 2023, but it’s not a surprise to see the two most populous states in the lead of the pack.
Even though the majority of its power comes from natural gas, Texas currently leads the U.S. in planned renewable energy installations. The state also has plans to power nearly 900,000 homes using new wind energy.
California is second, which could be partially attributable to the passing of Title 24, an energy code that makes it compulsory for new buildings to have the equipment necessary to allow the easy installation of solar panels, battery storage, and EV charging.
New solar power in the U.S. isn’t just coming from places like Texas and California. In 2023, Ohio will add 1,917 MW of new nameplate solar capacity, with Nevada and Colorado not far behind.
|Top 10 States||Battery (MW)||Solar (MW)||Wind (MW)||Total (MW)|
The state of New York is also looking to become one of the nation’s leading renewable energy providers. The New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) is making real strides towards this objective with 11% of the nation’s new wind power projects expected to come online in 2023.
According to the data, New Hampshire is the only state in the U.S. that has no new utility-scale renewable energy installations planned for 2023. However, the state does have plans for a massive hydroelectric plant that should come online in 2024.
Renewable energy is considered essential to reduce global warming and CO2 emissions.
In line with the efforts by each state to build new renewable installations, the Biden administration has set a goal of achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and a net zero emissions economy by no later than 2050.
The EIA forecasts the share of U.S. electricity generation from renewable sources rising from 22% in 2022 to 23% in 2023 and to 26% in 2024.
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