Tesla is building a Gigafactory, traditional car manufacturers are responding to the Tesla challenge by developing their own EV models. Large-scale battery installations are used to store solar and wind power. Smart phones and tablets are gaining ground in emerging markets. The prices of lithium batteries have come down quickly and it seems that they will be used every there. But are there enough critical raw materials (lithium, cobalt, natural graphite) for fast scale up of the lithium battery industry.
The CloseLoop project reviewed market forecasts of different lithium battery applications and estimated the raw materials needs until 2025. According to our estimate, the production of lithium batteries will increase by a factor of nine, the need of lithium by a factor of four, need for cobalt and natural graphite double in comparison to the 2015 global production if non-battery uses of these raw materials remain unchanged. It is unclear if the mining industry can scale up their production fast enough and if European industry can secure their raw material need. Recycling of batteries and their raw materials is gaining in importance, but recycled materials are not sufficient for the needs of the fast growing industry. Both new recycling technologies and substitutes for the critical raw materials are developed in the CloseLoop project.
The link to the report: Li raw materials 20170517
Figure 1. Raw materials estimates for a) lithium, b) cobalt and c) carbon&graphite.