The Future of Electric Vehicles Lie in the Sourcing of Lithium and Cobalt for Batteries
by Vishnu Rajamanickam (Freight Waves) … But unless the manufacturing process and the raw material sourcing is regulated and stabilized, it would be hard to sell EVs to the larger middle-class populace.
This is because the on-road price of an electric vehicle is much higher than its combustion engine equivalent, as the battery that runs an EV is expensive to produce. The current EVs run on lithium-ion batteries, which apart from the obvious lithium component, also utilizes cobalt – an extremely expensive metal, albeit used in far lesser quantities compared to the former.
The demand for lithium is spread out across different segments, with nearly 60% of its utility lying in non-battery related applications. … DB (is) projecting the use of lithium in the EV industry to grow by nearly thrice its market share right now by 2025. McKinsey’s recent report suggests a similar scenario, forecasting that battery applications and the EV market would cover three-fourths of the global lithium demand by 2025.
More than 95% of the world’s lithium resources are mined as a primary product, occurring across South America, Australia, and Asia with massive reserves across ‘the lithium triangle’ in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. The control of lithium in the market lies majorly with four companies – Sichuan Tianqi Lithium Industries in China, the SQM of Chile, Albemarle and FMC corporation of the U.S. – jointly holding 98% of the market.
Though the situation of a few companies controlling global lithium supply sounds a bit ominous, the story of cobalt gets a lot worse. Unlike lithium, cobalt reserves are concentrated in a tiny stretch of land – the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country that has been marred with civil tensions and a place where modern slavery and human rights violations are an everyday occurrence. More than 65% of the world’s cobalt supply comes from the country, forcing companies to be complicit to the tragedies unfolding in the mines. READ MORE