WFC: China EV growth to drive foundries demand

Argus Media, Published date: 25 September 2018

Global growth in electric vehicle (EV) production driven by China is poised to accelerate rapidly by 2030, delegates heard at the 73rd World Foundry Congress in Krakow, Poland.

In a study presented by foundry supplier HA Group, delegates heard that China could produce over 19.1mn EVs a year by 2030. This would amount to a 38pc market share.

Global lithium carbonate supply is estimated to be 200,000-300,000 t/yr. An average EV battery uses 63kg of lithium carbonate. Around 1.2mn t/yr of lithium carbonate would be required to meet the demand for 19.1mn EVs by 2030.

The study projects that the EU and US could produce a combined 12.9mn EVs a year by 2030. Combined with Chinese production, this puts the total amount of extra EVs by 2030 in the three largest economic regions at 32mn. This would require around 2mn t/yr of lithium carbonate, or 180,000 t/yr for the EV market alone.

Global production of passenger and light vehicles grew to 98.6mn in 2016 from 56mn in 2000. By 2030, production is expected to have reached 116mn. Of the extra 32.6mn vehicles, 24mn will be made in China.

In a separate study, the International Energy Agency estimated that by 2040, the world will have 280mn EVs. This would require 17.6mn t of lithium carbonate. Current proven reserves of lithium in large producer countries are 8.4mn t in Chile, 5mn t in Australia, 9mn t in Argentina and 9 mn t in Bolivia.

Battery costs

The HA group study modelled EV growth across different scenarios based on various factors.

One factor was the price of battery packs. The price per kilowatt hour has significantly fallen since 2010 — to €200-230/kwh from €900/kwh. Average prices for EV batteries are in the range of €12,000-19,300. This is based on the price for a Chevrolet Bolt (60kwh) battery pack. By 2025, prices are expected to reach parity with internal combustion engines and will continue to fall. Prices in 2030 are projected to be €65-120/kwh.

Prices are affected heavily by production costs. As the market develops, new factories should reduce the cost of production substantially. Tesla has plans for 10 “giga-factories” over the next decade, each capable of producing enough batteries for 500,000 EVs every year.

Battery prices are dependent on lithium carbonate and cobalt prices. Spot prices for 56.5pc grade lithium carbonate were assessed today at $15-17/kg cif China and prices for 99.8pc chemical-grade cobalt were assessed at $33.75-34.25/lb in-warehouse Rotterdam.

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