Infographic: Explaining the Surging Demand for Lithium-Ion Batteries
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Explaining the Surging Demand for Lithium-Ion Batteries

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The Battery Series
Part 3: Explaining the Surging Demand for Lithium-Ion Batteries

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: Explaining the Surging Demand for Lithium-Ion Batteries

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

Explaining the Surging Demand for Lithium-Ion Batteries

In Parts 1 and 2, we examined the evolution of battery technology as well as what batteries can and cannot do. In this part, we will tackle demand in the rechargeable battery market, with a major focus on the rapidly growing lithium-ion segment.

For many decades, lead-acid batteries have been the most important rechargeable batteries in our lives.

Even in 2014, about 64.5% of all revenues in the rechargeable battery market were from lead-acid sales, mainly to be used for automotive starters.

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Why?

Despite not being the most energy dense batteries, lead-acids are proven and can supply high surge currents. They are also extremely cheap to manufacture, costing around $150 per kWh of energy capacity.

Enter Lithium-Ion

The first lithium-ions were not cheap. In fact, early batteries produced commercially in the mid-90s typically costed upwards of $3,000 per kWh of energy.

Luckily, the cost of lithium-ion batteries has come down dramatically, making it the battery of choice for consumer electronics throughout the 2000s. And recently, scientists have made even more progress, opening the lithium-ion to many more applications, namely in electric vehicles.

In 2008, analysts estimated that lithium-ion battery packs costed $600-$1,200 per kWh, but this range would drop to $500-800 per kWh over the following four years. Tesla now claims that a Tesla Model S battery cost is $240 per kWh and that the expected cost for a Model 3 is $190 per kWh.

At $240 kWh, lithium-ions become competitive with $3/gallon gas. At $150, they are even competitive with $2 gas.

Giant megafactories such as Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 will also help bring economies of scale to lithium-ion production, making them even less cost-prohibitive. Soon battery packs will cost closer to $100 per kWh, which will make them essentially cheaper than all gas-powered vehicles.

Demand for Lithium-Ion Batteries

Major advancements in lithium-ion battery technology have been a game-changer. Cheaper, more-effective lithium-ions are now taking over the battery market.

In 2014, lithium-ions made up 33.4% of the rechargeable battery market worldwide, worth $49 billion. By 2025, it is estimated by Bernstein that the rechargeable battery market will more than double in size to $112 billion, while lithium-ion’s market share will more than double to 70.0%.

The key driver? The automotive segment.

In 2010, the automotive sector was a drop in the bucket for lithium-ion battery sales. Five years later, automotive made up more than $5 billion of sales in a sector worth nearly $16 billion.

The EV Goes Mainstream

In 2015, almost half a million cars were sold in the US with an electric drive component.

14% of these sales were battery electric vehicles (BEVs):

  • 71,000 Battery EVs (14%)
  • 43,000 plug-in hybrids (9%)
  • 384,000 hybrids (77%)

= 498,000 electric drive vehicles

But as a part of total US auto sales, BEVs still made up less than 1% of sales:

  • 71,000 battery EVs (0.4%)
  • 43,000 plug-in hybrids (0.3%)
  • 384,000 hybrids (2.3%)
  • 16,900,000 gas/diesel sales (97%)

However, in the near future, this is expected to change fast. By 2040, approximately 35% of all global sales will be BEVs.

This will put electric vehicle sales at close to 40 million per year globally, meaning a lot of energy will need to be stored by batteries. Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects that at this point, that electric vehicles will be pulling more than 1,900 TWh from the grid each year.

How much is 1,900 TWh? Itโ€™s enough to power the entire United States for 160 days.

And to meet this demand for lithium-ion powered vehicles, a massive amount of battery packs will need to be manufactured.

Part 4 of The Battery Series looks at which materials will be needed to make this possible.

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Energy

Ranked: Nuclear Power Production, by Country

Nuclear power accounted for 10% of global electricity generated in 2020. Here’s a look at the largest nuclear power producers.

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Nuclear Power Production by Country

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Nearly 450 reactors around the world supply various nations with nuclear power, combining for about 10% of the world’s electricity, or about 4% of the global energy mix.

But while some countries are turning to nuclear as a clean energy source, nuclear energy generation overall has seen a slowdown since its peak in the 1990s.

The above infographic breaks down nuclear electricity generation by country in 2020 using data from the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS).

Ranked: The Top 15 Countries for Nuclear Power

Just 15 countries account for more than 91% of global nuclear power production. Hereโ€™s how much energy these countries produced in 2020:

RankCountryNumber of Operating ReactorsNuclear Electricity Supplied
[GWh]
% share
#1U.S. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ96789,91930.9%
#2China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ50344,74813.5%
#3France ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท58338,67113.3%
#4Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ39201,8217.9%
#5South Korea ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท24152,5836.0%
#6Canada ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ1992,1663.6%
#7Ukraine ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ1571,5502.8%
#8Germany ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช660,9182.4%
#9Spain ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ755,8252.2%
#10Sweden ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช747,3621.9%
#11U.K. ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง1545,6681.8%
#12Japan ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต3343,0991.7%
#13India ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ2240,3741.6%
#14Belgium ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช732,7931.3%
#15Czechia ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ628,3721.1%
Rest of the World ๐ŸŒŽ44207,3408.1%
Total4482,553,208100.0%

In the U.S., nuclear power produces over 50% of the country’s clean electricity. Additionally, 88 of the country’s 96 operating reactors in 2020 received approvals for a 20-year life extension.

China, the world’s second-largest nuclear power producer, is investing further in nuclear energy in a bid to achieve its climate goals. The plan, which includes building 150 new reactors by 2035, could cost as much as $440 billion.

On the other hand, European opinions on nuclear energy are mixed. Germany is the eighth-largest on the list but plans to shutter its last operating reactor in 2022 as part of its nuclear phase-out. France, meanwhile, plans to expand its nuclear capacity.

Which Countries Rely Most on Nuclear Energy?

Although total electricity generation is useful for a high-level global comparison, itโ€™s important to remember that there are some smaller countries not featured above where nuclear is still an important part of the electricity mix.

Hereโ€™s a breakdown based on the share of nuclear energy in a country’s electricity mix:

RankCountryNuclear Share of Electricity Mix
#1France ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท70.6%
#2Slovakia ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฐ53.1%
#3Ukraine ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ51.2%
#4Hungary ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ48.0%
#5Bulgaria ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ40.8%
#6Belgium ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช39.1%
#7Slovenia ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ37.8%
#8Czechia ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ37.3%
#9Armenia ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฒ34.5%
#10Finland ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ33.9%
#11Switzerland ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ32.9%
#12Sweden ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช29.8%
#13South Korea ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท29.6%
#14Spain ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ22.2%
#15Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ20.6%
#16Romania ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด19.9%
#17United States ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ19.7%
#18Canada ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ14.6%
#19United Kingdom ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง14.5%
#20Germany ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช11.3%

European countries dominate the leaderboard with 14 of the top 15 spots, including France, where nuclear power is the country’s largest source of electricity.

Itโ€™s interesting to note that only a few of these countries are top producers of nuclear in absolute terms. For example, in Slovakia, nuclear makes up 53.6% of the electricity mixโ€”however, the country’s four reactors make up less than 1% of total global operating capacity.

On the flipside, the U.S. ranks 17th by share of nuclear power in its mix, despite producing 31% of global nuclear electricity in 2020. This discrepancy is largely due to size and population. European countries are much smaller and produce less electricity overall than larger countries like the U.S. and China.

The Future of Nuclear Power

The nuclear power landscape is constantly changing.

There were over 50 additional nuclear reactors under construction in 2020, and hundreds more are planned primarily in Asia.

As countries turn away from fossil fuels and embrace carbon-free energy sources, nuclear energy might see a resurgence in the global energy mix despite the phase-outs planned in several countries around the globe.

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The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2012-2021)

Energy fuels led the way as commodity prices surged in 2021, with only precious metals providing negative returns.

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commodity returns 2021 preview

The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2022 Edition)

For investors, 2021 was a year in which nearly every asset class finished in the green, with commodities providing some of the best returns.

The S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) was the third best-performing asset class in 2021, returning 37.1% and beating out real estate and all major equity indices.

This graphic from U.S. Global Investors tracks individual commodity returns over the past decade, ranking them based on their individual performance each year.

Commodity Prices Surge in 2021

After a strong performance from commodities (metals especially) in the year prior, 2021 was all about energy commodities.

The top three performers for 2021 were energy fuels, with coal providing the single best annual return of any commodity over the past 10 years at 160.6%. According to U.S. Global Investors, coal was also the least volatile commodity of 2021, meaning investors had a smooth ride as the fossil fuel surged in price.

Commodity2021 Returns
Coal160.61%
Crude Oil55.01%
Gas46.91%
Aluminum42.18%
Zinc31.53%
Nickel26.14%
Copper25.70%
Corn22.57%
Wheat20.34%
Lead18.32%
Gold-3.64%
Platinum-9.64%
Silver-11.72%
Palladium-22.21%

Source: U.S. Global Investors

The only commodities in the red this year were precious metals, which failed to stay positive despite rising inflation across goods and asset prices. Gold and silver had returns of -3.6% and -11.7% respectively, with platinum returning -9.6% and palladium, the worst performing commodity of 2021, at -22.2%.

Aside from the precious metals, every other commodity managed double-digit positive returns, with four commodities (crude oil, coal, aluminum, and wheat) having their best single-year performances of the past decade.

Energy Commodities Outperform as the World Reopens

The partial resumption of travel and the reopening of businesses in 2021 were both powerful catalysts that fueled the price rise of energy commodities.

After crude oilโ€™s dip into negative prices in April 2020, black gold had a strong comeback in 2021 as it returned 55.01% while being the most volatile commodity of the year.

Natural gas prices also rose significantly (46.91%), with the UK and Europeโ€™s natural gas prices rising even more as supply constraints came up against the winter demand surge.

Energy commodity returns 2021

Despite being the second worst performer of 2020 with the clean energy transition on the horizon, coal was 2021โ€™s best commodity.

High electricity demand saw coal return in style, especially in China which accounts for one-third of global coal consumption.

Base Metals Beat out Precious Metals

2021 was a tale of two metals, as precious metals and base metals had opposing returns.

Copper, nickel, zinc, aluminum, and lead, all essential for the clean energy transition, kept up last yearโ€™s positive returns as the EV batteries and renewable energy technologies caught investorsโ€™ attention.

Demand for these energy metals looks set to continue in 2022, with Tesla having already signed a $1.5 billion deal for 75,000 tonnes of nickel with Talon Metals.

Metals price performance 2021

On the other end of the spectrum, precious metals simply sunk like a rock last year.

Investors turned to equities, real estate, and even cryptocurrencies to preserve and grow their investments, rather than the traditionally favorable gold (-3.64%) and silver (-11.72%). Platinum and palladium also lagged behind other commodities, only returning -9.64% and -22.21% respectively.

Grains Bring Steady Gains

In a year of over and underperformers, grains kept up their steady track record and notched their fifth year in a row of positive returns.

Both corn and wheat provided double-digit returns, with corn reaching eight-year highs and wheat reaching prices not seen in over nine years. Overall, these two grains followed 2021โ€™s trend of increasing food prices, as the UN Food and Agriculture Organizationโ€™s food price index reached a 10-year high, rising by 17.8% over the course of the year.

Grains price performance 2021

As inflation across commodities, assets, and consumer goods surged in 2021, investors will now be keeping a sharp eye for a pullback in 2022. Weโ€™ll have to wait and see whether or not the Fedโ€™s plans to increase rates and taper asset purchases will manage to provide price stability in commodities.

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