- Funding for new mines needed after years of low investment
- China so far dominates the electric vehicle supply chain
Booming demand for electric vehicles and insufficient investment in mines could result in a global shortage of minerals needed to manufacture rechargeable batteries in a few years’ time, a Tesla Inc. representative told U.S. officials and mining executives in a meeting in Washington.
Prices for some of the minerals, which include graphite, cobalt, lithium and nickel, could increase as a result of the high demand and the limited supply, Tesla global supply manager of battery metals Sarah Maryssael said in a closed-door presentation Thursday confirmed by the company. Investment is important to ensure there is sufficient supply for the industry to grow, she said.
Funding for projects to mine these minerals in certain countries has been challenging in the past, Maryssael said at the presentation. But the industry is now able to source battery minerals responsibly through partnerships with producers in countries such as Chile, Australia and Canada. Reuters reported her comments earlier.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia are expected to introduce a bill this month designed to streamline the permitting process needed to mine so-called critical materials in the U.S., Sam Runyon, a Manchin spokeswoman, said in an email.
About half of the world’s electric vehicles are sold in China, and most components of the rechargeable batteries are manufactured there. The Asian nation controls about two-thirds of that industry, with Bloomberg NEF forecasting it could grow to about 73 percent by 2021. The U.S. controls only about 13 percent of the global lithium cell production capacity, with no growth expected, according to BNEF.
See this for more on production of battery materials
Concentration of most of the supply chain in China was presented as a national security issue by some speakers at the event in Washington, according to three people who attended and who asked not to be identified because the meeting was private. Presenters included Robbie Diamond, President of Securing America’s Future Energy, executives from U.S.-based lithium producers Albemarle Corp. and Livent Corp. and from junior lithium miners Pioneer Resources Ltd. and Standard Lithium Ltd.
— With assistance by Ari Natter