Historically, the main end-use for lithium has been in industrial applications including usage in glass and ceramics, grease, synthetic rubber, pharmaceuticals, air treatment, etc. In 2017 industrial applications still represented a majority of lithium demand. However it is changing, led lithium usage in batteries.
In recent years lithium has been increasingly used in batteries used in portable devices: computers, mobile phones, but also power tools, cameras, and a lot of other electronics. Now, lithium demand in Electric Mobility and which includes electric cars of course but also electric buses, bikes, scooters, etc has taken over electronics.
Lithium demand is estimated to reach 1.4 million tons LCE in 2027, representing a sixfold increase or almost 20% growth per year from lithium consumption in 2017. Consumption of lithium will continue to be driven by the new energy sectors, particularly the EV sector. Lithium consumption by rechargeable batteries is forecast to register a 27% growth per year between 2017 and 2027, reaching 1.2 million tons LCE in 2027.
By 2027, Electric Mobility Will Dominate Global Lithium Growth
The Lithium-ion Battery Supply Chain
The lithium-ion battery supply chain start with raw material extraction such as lithium but also nickel or cobalt. Those metals are then converted into chemical products to be used into cathodes. The cathode is one of the four main battery cell components along with the anote, the electrolyte solution and the separator, but is by far the costliest.
The different components are then assembled into a battery cells and those cells are then put together to create a battery pack which will be use in an electric car for instance or an e-bus.
Strong Supporting Factors For Electric Mobility
Governments are not just trying to push down CO2 emissions, a number of countries are also talking about stopping ICE sales in the near future and developing a number of incentives to push EV sales up
Charging infrastructure is improving with the number of charging spots available is constantly growin
Automakers announced the launch of various EVs but also sometimes plans to stop manufacturing ICE. They are securing large buying deals with battery producers
Customers are growingly attracted to EVs, not just because they are cleaner, but because they finally look good, are increasingly affordable, offer an extended driving range, and will soon directly complete with ICE in terms of cost of ownership
Battery manufacturers, mostly located in Northeast Asia, are multiplying billion dollar investments in gigafactories, which will allow them to keep battery cost declining. They are also working on making batteries more efficient with a longer range and shorter charging time
Global EV Outloof - China in the Lead, Europe to Follow
No matter which forecast you are looking at, all predict a tremendous growth in EVs
McKinsey: EV production will reach more than 26 million globally by 2030. China is expected to add around 15 million EVs by year 2030 (56% market share), followed by Europe (26% market share) and the US (12% market share)
BNEF: EVs sales to surge to 30 million by 2030. China leads with sales reaching almost 39% of the global market in 2030. China leads on adoption rates, with EVs accounting for 19% of all passenger vehicle sales in China in 2025. Europe is close behind at 14%, followed by the US at 11%
Platts: by 2025, the EU will actually have a deeper penetration rate for EVs (30%) than in China (15%) and in the US (8%)
After Consumer Electronics, EVs are new leading growth in Li-ion Batteries
Source: BNEF, Roskill, IHS Markit
Cathode evolution: de-risking the supply chain and increases energy density
LFP, NCA, and NMC are dominant cathode technologies in EVs but NMC is set to dominate the industry
The NMC cathode itself is evolving move away from controversial cobalt and increase energy density by using more nickel
NMC 622 & 811 will represent a large majority of cathodes used in Electric Mobility by the start of the next decade
NMC 622 & 811 but also NCA (Tesla) require lithium hydroxide
Lithium Hydroxide to Overtake Carbonate
Growth in LIOH demand is powered by increased demand for nickel-rich cathodes for lithium-ion batteries used in EVs
Battery-grade LIOH is forecast to take over battery-grade LI2CO3 by 2024