Lithium, the common ingredient in almost all electric-car batteries, has become so precious that it is often called white gold. But something surprising has happened recently: The metal’s price has fallen, helping to make electric vehicles more affordable.
Since January, the price of lithium has dropped nearly 20 percent, according to Benchmark Minerals, even as sales of electric vehicles have soared. Cobalt, another important battery material, has fallen by more than half. Copper, essential to electric motors and batteries, has slipped about 18 percent, even though U.S. mines and copper-rich countries like Peru are struggling to increase production.
The sharp moves have confounded many analysts who predicted that prices would stay high, or even climb, slowing the transition to cleaner forms of transportation, an essential component of efforts to limit climate change.
Instead, the drop in commodity prices has made it easier for carmakers to cut prices for electric vehicles. This month, Tesla lowered the prices of its two most expensive cars, the Model S sedan and Model X sport utility vehicle, by thousands of dollars.
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