Nickel demand from the auto industry is set to rise as much as threefold in five years as output of electric and hybrid cars gathers pace, according to Russia’s largest producer of the metal.
“Hybrid and electric cars make more demand for nickel,” Anton Berlin, head of strategic marketing at OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel, said in an interview in Moscow. “It will rise because many automobile companies, such as Tesla Motors, have very ambitious plans for the future.”
Electric and hybrid vehicles are increasingly becoming a low-cost alternative for consumers as their batteries — which use nickel — get cheaper and more efficient. That may aid a recovery in the market for the metal after prices slumped because of oversupply in the stainless-steel industry.
Tesla Motors Inc., California’s largest automotive employer, is seeking to make electric cars for the masses by adding a battery factory near Reno, Nevada. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said last month that Tesla would also reveal “a major new product line” at the end of April.
Use of nickel in car batteries may rise to more than 100,000 metric tons a year by the end of the decade from 30,000 tons in 2014, according to Norilsk’s Berlin. That projection is equal to about 5 percent of current global output; it also matches Norilsk’s shipments to China last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Nickel is used mostly in stainless-steel manufacturing. Overcapacity in that industry has dragged down prices for the silver-white metal more than 30 percent in the past year. Nickel was little changed on Tuesday, falling 0.1 percent to trade at $12,395 a ton as of 2:45 p.m. in London.
Demand for the metal from non-stainless-steel industries may grow by 3 percent this year after increasing 4 percent in 2014, according to a Norilsk presentation. The Moscow-based company, which used to be the world’s largest producer, controls about 13 percent of the market after Brazil’s Vale SA edged ahead last year with a 700-ton lead on its Russian rival.
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