World’s top battery makers have a plan…
With cobalt prices soaring, the world’s top battery makers, a majority of which are based in emerging Asia (AAXJ) (VPL), are looking to tweak the ratios of raw materials used in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries. More specifically, they’re attempting to reduce the amount of one of the more expensive components, cobalt, being used in the production process. The rare metal has more than doubled in price over the past year on strong demand accompanied by a supply shortage. We’re now seeing car giants rushing to lock in supply deals with cobalt miners. The Volkswagen (VLKAF) (VLKAY)-CATL-Glencore (GLNCY) (GLCNF) deal in just one example.
…with the demand for EVs to jump 20x by 2025
Panasonic (PCRFF) (PCRFY), the world’s leader in battery production, is working on reducing cobalt consumption in its battery production process. With customers including Tesla (TSLA), Panasonic currently employs NCA (nickel-cobalt-aluminum) technology in battery production. The two companies are now together working to develop a battery with 85% nickel composition.
South Korea (EWY) based Samsung SDI (SSDIF) and LG Chem (LGCLF) are developing new power packs that use more nickel and less cobalt. Samsung SDI expects the industry-wide amount of cobalt per battery unit to decrease to about half of current levels over the long term.
Change is good
Currently, the more popular NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) formula employs a 6:2:2 ratio; that is, a ratio of 60% nickel to 20% cobalt and 20% manganese. SK Innovation, another of South Korea’s top battery makers, is working to change the composition of these cathode materials to 80% nickel, 10% cobalt and 10% manganese; so an 8:1:1 ratio.
Consequently, depending on the success of efforts to change the ratio of lithium-ion batteries inputs from the current 6:2:2 to 8:1:1, the demand for nickel may grow by 10-40% from its current level by 2025 (according to a UBS report).