Demand for lithium-ion batteries grew steadily over the past twenty years as private electronics grew to become widespread, however is now anticipated to quickly improve as BEV gross sales develop. Because the automotive business transitions to widespread electrification, battery provide methods will develop into a key differentiator amongst gamers.
Toyota has been slower than different automakers to introduce battery-electric powertrains, primarily because of its current infrastructure being geared in the direction of constructing hybrid-electric automobiles. Nonetheless, as different OEMs have begun to indicate their playing cards, revealing formidable multi-billion-dollar battery provide offers, Toyota has begun to launch its personal BEV technique. This will likely be spearheaded by the bZ collection, with the primary mannequin – the bZ4X electrical SUV – because of launch in mid-2022. Toyota goals to supply 15 battery-electric fashions by 2025, with seven within the bZ collection. Lexus, Toyota’s premium arm, launched the UX 300e battery-electric SUV in early 2021, primarily based on a modified model of the TNGA-C platform shared with the Prius and Corolla.
To construct that many EVs, the automaker will want a dependable provide of batteries to energy them. That is the place Prime Planet Power & Options (PPES), Toyota’s three way partnership with Panasonic fashioned final yr, is available in. The JV was established to construct out the 2 firms’ Li-ion battery manufacturing capability and builds on a relationship fashioned with their current Primearth EV Power firm, which primarily constructed nickel-metal hydride cells for Toyota’s hybrid automobiles.
On 4 October, PPES signed an settlement with BHP, the world’s second-largest mining firm by income, for the availability of nickel sulphate – the premise for the nickel current within the cathode of most Li-ion battery cells. No particulars got on the size of the availability association however the uncooked materials will likely be equipped from BHP’s new Kwinana plant in Australia, which is anticipated to provide 100,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate per yr at full capability – estimated to be sufficient for as much as 700,000 electrical automobiles. BHP is making ready itself for a speedy improve in demand for nickel, estimating that the rising battery sector will see demand develop by 500% over the subsequent decade.
Main premium battery-EV developer Tesla has already inked an identical cope with BHP in July 2021. Once more, no particulars have been confirmed in regards to the measurement of the deal however some analysts are estimating it may very well be round 18,000 tonnes per yr – sufficient for greater than 125,000 automobiles utilizing BHP’s estimates.
Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, famous on Twitter in February 2021 that nickel provide was a priority for the automaker as a result of it may restrict its capacity to scale Li-ion cell manufacturing. This led Tesla to announce in the identical month that its extra reasonably priced Commonplace Vary Mannequin 3 and Mannequin Y automobiles would shift to a lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) cathode – this omits the nickel of ordinary cathode chemistries, bringing the associated fee down and truly enhancing its security efficiency, although on the expense of power density and low-temperature efficiency. LFP cathodes had already been utilized in Tesla’s Commonplace Vary automobiles made in China, however will now be expanded to its US vary, too.
To not be outdone, legacy automakers have additionally been securing battery uncooked materials provide. In June 2021, Volkswagen and Daimler launched The Accountable Lithium Partnership with German chemical large BASF and moral smartphone maker Fairphone. The partnership was created to research the impression of mining lithium salts in Chile’s Atacama desert. Whereas the deal doesn’t embrace an settlement on lithium provide, it’s supposed to make sure the ESG credentials of any future lithium-extraction operation within the space are in step with the automakers’ personal said environmental objectives.
BMW has additionally made strikes to safe uncooked supplies for EV batteries. This features a December 2019 cope with China’s Ganfeng Lithium valued at EUR540 million, which is able to provide the entire automaker’s lithium wants till 2024. Later, in July 2020, BMW signed an settlement with Morocco’s Managem Group value EUR100 million for provide of cobalt for battery cathodes – this may provide round one fifth of the automaker’s cobalt by way of to 2024.
These offers spotlight the necessity for automotive gamers to look additional up the battery provide chain, to make sure they’ve entry to ample uncooked supplies to provide the large capability development wanted inside the lithium-ion battery sector for the brand new wave of battery EVs launching within the coming years. Whereas pushing to maintain cell prices down and profitability up, automakers should additionally think about the environmental ramifications of those agreements and purpose to scale back its impression because the sector grows.