Global battery raw material outlook 2030
The global demand for lithium-ion batteries is expected to reach c.5.200 GWh by 2030 growing with a CAGR of 27% (2022-’30). For the production of these cells, components such as the cathode active material, anode material, separators and electrolyte are required as well as raw materials like Lithium, Nickel, Cobalt and Manganese. This increasing demand will lead to a tight Lithium and Nickel supply/demand balance and potential shortages by mid/end of the decade. From a current perspective a supply bottleneck is expected especially for Nickel class 1 and Ni sulfate, which are required to produce NMC-based cathode active material. For low-voltage applications like 12 & 48V solutions, Nickel based lithium-ion battery cells are relevant. Nickel based cells are preferred compared to alternatives like Iron-Phosphate as they have a higher energy density and perform better at low temperatures. For example, in internal combustion vehicles, 12V applications need to be able to crank the engine during low temperatures experienced in the winter.
Currently, OEMs mainly focus on cell production volume securitization, whereas for raw material mining and refining not enough attention is paid. To facilitate the supply of planned EV volumes, efforts in raw material securitization need to be taken into account as early as possible. Therefore, a mix of different short- and long-term strategies, as minority or majority investments into mining/refining projects or long term off-take agreements to secure raw materials are necessary. In the longer term, recycling activities must also be considered to lower costs, reduce CO2 and be compliant with new EU regulations regarding minimum content of recycled materials in batteries. For large volume OEMs and cell producers, investments in mines and other measures are crucial to facilitate sufficient supply. Chinese cell producers are already heavily invested upstream including owned mining & refining projects. Today already c. 50% of processed Lithium and c. 45% of processed Nickel supply in 2025 are reserved.
Considering the long lead times of new mining projects, a potential lack of material supply needs to be considered to adopt a low carbon, EV battery strategy. For the smaller volume production of low-voltage batteries the securitization of raw materials for LiBs might become more difficult. Therefore, alternatives to NMC such as Mn-rich and Na-Ion battery cell chemistries should be fostered to avoid future shortages. Na-Ion, for example, is very promising alternative from a supply chain, price and low temperature performance point of view. But it also brings other challenges like lower energy density.
Dennis Gallus is a senior project manager and battery market and technology expert at Roland Berger, working in the field of lithium-ion batteries for more than 10 years. After being employed at the Meet Battery Research Center as PhD student, he started his consulting profession. He concluded more than 70 battery-related consulting projects along the whole value chain, from mining to recycling, for many major OEMs, cell producers, battery material producers and investment banks. His projects encompasses due diligences, market entry strategies, raw material/supply chain strategies, cost/technology benchmarking and other.