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Tesla Expects Global Shortage Of Minerals Used To Make EV Batteries

Tesla Expects Global Shortage Of Minerals Used To Make EV Batteries

Production of lithium-ion batteries need copper, nickel, cobalt and lithium

Two largest producers of nickel, Australia and Brazil saw a decline in production

Elon Musk has revealed plans to use less cobalt in batteries

Tesla has said that it expects a global shortage of minerals, nickel, copper, lithium and other materials essential for building electric vehicles. This shortage is expected due to underinvestment in the mining sector, Tesla’s head of minerals procurement, Sarah Maryssael told an industry conference, Reuters reported.

In a closed door conference of miners, regulators and lawmakers on May 2, Maryssael said that a shortage is coming in the near future. The conference was hosted by commodity pricing tracker Benchmark Minerals Intelligence.

One of the largest producers of nickel, Australia saw a decline in the production in 2017, producing 190K metric tonne in 2017, down from 204K metric tonne in 2016. However, in August 2018, global mining giant BHP had invested in Western Australia, which up on completion is expected to be the world’s largest battery-grade nickel sulphate plant.

The second largest producer of nickel, Brazil, also saw a drop in production in 2017 producing 140K metric tonnes, down from 160K metric tonnes in 2016.

The copper industry, on the other hand, has suffered from years of low investment. The players in the industry are now breaking a sweat to bring fresh supply into the market. The world’s largest publicly traded copper producer, Freeport McMoRan, is expanding its operations in the United States and Indonesia.

Lithium production meanwhile has gone up exponentially. Australia, one of the largest producers of lithium produced 51K metric tonnes in 2018, up from 40K metric tonnes in the previous year.

Electric vehicles use twice as much copper as is used in conventional internal combustion engines.

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla has said that Tesla will develop batteries which use less cobalt in battery cathodes and will emphasise more on nickel, Maryssael reportedly added. The plan to use less cobalt comes to at a time when mining is facing a backlash after it emerged that child labour has been used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is the largest cobalt producer of the world.

The State Of Lithium-Ion Batteries Globally

With the rise of electric vehicles around the world, the role of lithium-ion batteries has grown exponentially. Earlier where such batteries were only used to power smartphones, laptops and industrial tools, now these batteries are growing in size and capacity opening up a whole new market.

South Korean conglomerate LG’s LG Chem is one of the biggest producers of lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 51 GWh in 2018, data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence has shown. 

Tesla’s Gigafactory 1, which is one of the world’s largest factory of lithium-ion batteries, reached an annualized rate of roughly 20 GWh in 2018. Tesla and Panasonic jointly own the Gigafactory