Lithium

Some projections for the next 5 years during which the EV vs. petrol battle will be played out, as well as the grid storage transition.

by Ian Page.

Lithium Market Overview, December 2015

In my Peak Everything slides I picked on lithium as a particularly interesting metal, primarily because of its limited cheap source, its expected huge increase in consumption leading to a leap in cost of extraction to spodumene rock. It is between 50% and 100% more expensive to get lithium from rock than brine, however since there is no lithium exchange- sales are long term and murky- significant differences in extraction cost exist simultaneously.

Lithium is not actually the most expensive component of a lithium battery strangely ( its cobalt in most current ones) but the switch over from cheap sources to expensive sources is interesting.

Its become more interesting since Teslas giga factory…I’ve been wondering where they are going to get such enormous quantities of lithium from it suggests new mines for spodumene somewhere ( Nevada or Australia)

The above report is current projections for demand.

I found the most interesting slide to be this one.

Li-ion Batteries

Note that 1 kiloton was used in 2014 for grid stabilization (short term storage) and is the fastest growing segment, followed by electric cars ( 27MT), and then power tools! (Confusingly MT tends to be used in minerals to mean kiloton, and MM to mean megaton)

From other graphs lithium use for batteries (about 1/3 of total consumption) is now larger than lithium use for glass and ceramics.

An interesting projection is based on the learning curve for batteries for EV’s. If the 2007-2014 rate continues, they should meet parity with petrol driven cars target around 2021- at which time batteries will not be the major cost element of an EV. Of course this depends on the cost of oil which is frankly unknowable over the range 20$ to 120$!

The appendix contains a couple of recent cheaper battery claims. One of these (if it happens) would reduce battery costs for EV’s to half the rule of thumb cost at which EV’s compete with petrol.

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