Electric vehicle ambitions spark race for raw materials – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – October 23, 2017)


Manufacturers are scrambling to seal long-term deals for supply of lithium, cobalt and nickel

As carmakers gear up to electrify their fleets, a new scramble for resources is under way to ensure there is enough raw material for a rapid expansion of battery production.

Electric car batteries rely on a host of materials — from lithium to nickel, cobalt and graphite — while some cars also use motors that require rare earths.

Prices have soared rapidly over the past year, with cobalt, a greyish metal mostly mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, up more than 190 per cent over the past 18 months. Carmakers and battery producers are rushing to lock in supply agreements from mining companies for the metals as forecasts for consumer uptake of electric vehicles increase and governments launch policies to back a shift away from combustion engines.

According to the International Energy Agency, there were 2m electric vehicles on the world’s roads last year. It predicts at least 40m will be driving around by 2040. Some of the largest miners are also reshaping their operations to supply the lithium-ion battery market. BHP Billiton has said 2017 would be the “tipping point” for electric vehicles.

In September, Chinese carmaker Great Wall Motor signed an agreement with Australian lithium miner Pilbara Minerals to secure supply of the chemical for five years.

For the rest of this article: https://www.ft.com/content/44af43da-a1d6-11e7-8d56-98a09be71849