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article imageLithium under pressure as electric car revolution takes off

By Karen Graham     Nov 17, 2017 in Technology
As the electric vehicle market continues to grow, metal recyclers are honing their processes and technologies to extract metals from batteries more cheaply and efficiently.
The biggest pitfall for metal recyclers at the moment is a shortage of used batteries to recycle in order to make the technology cost-effective. But forward-thinking companies are already making plans to capitalize on the coming shortfall of lithium, cobalt and natural or synthetic graphite.
Albrecht Melber, co-managing director of German recycling firm Accurec was quoted by Reuters: “The value of lithium carbonate and natural or synthetic graphite has doubled or tripled in the last three or four years, becoming the most valuable materials besides cobalt in the automotive battery. There are big values that can be recycled in the future.”
Experts are predicting large-scale lithium batteries will be showing up the scrap electronics stream in the near future, with electric vehicle sales expected to pass 14 million a year by 2021, from less than one million now.
Ford s 2017 Focus Electric is powered by a 35 kWh lithium ion battery.
Ford's 2017 Focus Electric is powered by a 35 kWh lithium ion battery.
Ford Motors
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a data specialist, is predicting that by 2021, an extra 30,000 tons of cobalt and 81,000 tons of lithium a year will be needed to meet industry demand.
Lithium under pressure
Commodity research group CRU is forecasting 11,600 tons of cobalt will come from recycling by 2021, up from 7,110 tons a year at present. CRU's longer range forecast shows 24,900 tons by 2026, a 17.9 percent increase from today.
Most electric vehicle batteries are powered by lithium NMC batteries, which use a cathode composed of nickel, manganese and cobalt and a graphite anode. Lithium, which is mainly mined in Chile using a brine-methodology, has been under less pressure, mainly due to operations coming online in Argentina and Australia.
Lithium hydroxide forms less-soluble lithium carbonate which precipitates because of the common ion ...
Lithium hydroxide forms less-soluble lithium carbonate which precipitates because of the common ion effect. Image taken Dec. 30, 2010.
Chemicalinterest
But, because of the pressure to get lithium in battery-ready form to keep pace with electric vehicle sales, the price of lithium has jumped over 30 percent, to a record $12,000 a ton. There is another element to the lithium story that just came out on Friday.
China's Fulin Group shows interest in Chile's lithium
According to a press release dated November 17, Minera Salar Blanco SA (MSB), the company which holds the Maricunga lithium brine project in Chile, and in which Lithium Power International Limited controls 50 percent of shares, has entered into discussions with Fulin Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Chinese company, Fulin Energy Investment Co. Ltd and Yema Auto Co. Ltd.
Fulin is apparently looking at a potential equity purchase in the range of 20 to 50 percent. Fulin, in turn, is seeking to secure, direct project interest, offtake and agency rights.
LPI’s Chief Executive Officer, Martin Holland, commented: “The Company announces our ongoing discussions, following an unsolicited approach from Fulin. This further validates the global nature and scale of the Maricunga project.”
Established in the 1980s  and reorganized by FULIN GROUP in 2002  YEMA AUTO is the only Chinese-bran...
Established in the 1980s, and reorganized by FULIN GROUP in 2002, YEMA AUTO is the only Chinese-brand automobile manufacturer in Sichuan Province that has passenger vehicles, buses and new energy vehicles production qualifications.
Yema Global
The Sichuan Fulin Industrial Group Co., Ltd. (“Fulin Group”) is a holding company incorporated in 1995 and is based in Mianyang, China. The company engages in the manufacturing and marketing of automobiles in China.
More about Metals, Recycling, rare earth metals, Electric cars, lithium and cobalt