HONG KONG (CNNMoney) – China is outmaneuvering the U.S. and other countries in the global scramble for a vital element for electric cars.
As demand for the vehicles surges, Chinese companies have been doing deals around the world to secure supplies of lithium, a silvery-white metal mined from rocks in Australia and brine pools in South America.
China is the top market for electric and hybrid cars, accounting for roughly half of global sales, and the government is pushing the development of the industry within its borders. That calls for a lot of lithium, a key component of the vehicles’ batteries.
“Whoever controls the lithium supply chain will control the future of the electric vehicle space,” said Simon Moores, managing director at research and data provider Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. “There’s a global battery arms race.”
China has limited lithium resources of its own, so it’s looking abroad. In September, Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor bought a stake in Pilbara Minerals, an Australian lithium miner. Earlier this year, China’s Ganfeng Lithium snapped up 20 percent of an Argentine project.
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