Why Lithium Isn’t the Big Worry for Lithium-Ion Batteries – Cobalt and nickel bottlenecks are a much bigger threat.
Lithium-ion battery production is more likely to be constrained by cobalt or nickel supplies than by lithium availability, experts believe.
Li-ion battery makers use both metals in greater quantities than lithium, which has been the subject of significant supply concerns as battery production ramps up. In fact, none of these minerals are worryingly scarce in nature.
What troubles some observers, however, is that cobalt and nickel are susceptible to greater supply-chain risks because of the countries that control the resources.
“It’s not a physical scarcity risk, but there are supply risks that could affect the price not just of lithium but also cobalt, manganese and nickel. They are very important materials, depending on the chemistry,” said Logan Goldie-Scot, head of energy storage analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Cobalt in particular has a precarious supply chain since half the current reserve comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there is “an uncertain legal framework, corruption and a lack of transparency,” according to the CIA World Factbook.
Although the country is becoming more stable and improving in terms of economic development, it has a long history of conflict, and national elections next year could prove a flashpoint if the current president, Joseph Kabila, refuses to step down as required by law.
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