BASF makes low-nickel wager amid scramble for battery metals – by Ludwig Burger (Reuters U.S. – November 23, 2018)

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German chemicals giant BASF is betting on a new recipe for electric car batteries which stretches the time between charges while cutting dependence on nickel to help shave costs and grab more of a growing market.

It is part of flurry of activity in the sphere of cathodes materials, a major component of battery cells for an anticipated switch to electric vehicles (EV) due to clean air regulation.

At the moment BASF and others, including Belgium’s Umicore, a market leader, are boosting the nickel content to allow more energy storage and replace expensive cobalt, which is largely sourced from mines in Congo, where exploitation is rife.

But BASF is also working on plans to cut the nickel content by more than half while increasing the proportion of cheap and abundant manganese, the company said in response to questions from Reuters. “In addition, their cobalt-content will be below 5 percent with a target to produce these materials cobalt-free,” it said.

Nickel currently makes up about 60 percent of cathode materials and companies including Umicore and BASF are pushing that up to 80 percent in product launches next year. A slide from a BASF presentation from last year, seen by Reuters, envisaged a cathode materials product made up of just 20 percent nickel and 70 percent manganese in about 2021.

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