First wave of electric vehicles is now coming off the roads — and its creating a thorny environmental predicament. Swapping gas-powered engines for battery-powered alternatives is essential if Canada is to meet emissions targets and avoid the worst effects of climate change. Lithium-ion batteries will become only more important in daily life, as the clean electrification of the power grid is a necessary step toward decarbonization. But that presents its own threats. Electric cars do not run on truly renewable energy: the batteries require finite materials that are mined from the earth at both an environmental and human cost. At the end of its lifespan, a discarded battery is dangerous to handle and can leak hazardous material in a landfill.
Roughly 3.4 million electric vehicles were produced globally in 2020. By 2024, some projections put the number near 13 million — others go even higher. The global market for EV batteries is projected to be worth nearly $1 trillion in 2030, when the International Energy Agency predicts that nearly one in three new vehicles on Canadian roads could be electric. “We have maybe 20 years before all the vehicles become electric,” says Asmae Mokrini, the team lead in materials for energy technology at the National Research Council’s lab in Boucherville, Quebec. “The actual supply chain will not withstand the transition without recyclable materials.”
Ontario is trying to carve out its place in the EV market. The 2021 budget highlighted $4.3 billion in investment from automakers to build electric vehicles in the province, introduced tens of millions for research in the sector, and announced a strategy for extracting battery minerals. The federal budget, announced Monday, likewise included funding for EV research and the mining of battery materials. But experts say that any strategy to become a leader in electric vehicles must include battery manufacturing and recycling.
In March 2021, the nickel and stainless steel futures contracts’ hitting the limit down and Tsingshan Group’s announcement of the completion of the conversion from high-grade NPI to high-grade nickel matte caused a sensation in the market. There were intensive discussions in the market about the process of converting high-grade NPI to high-grade nickel matte and its cost efficiency. SMM has taken a deep dive into the inducement and future development of the transformation project in terms of the technological feasibility, the cost efficiency of raw materials, the pricing power of the nickel industry chain, as well as the industry strategy.
• Cost efficiency
SMM data showed that the full cost of high-grade NPI in the PT Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park was about $9,000/mt (Ni content), based on the benchmark prices of Ni1.8% nickel ore in the Indonesian market in February 2021, which stood at $41/wmt FOB. The cost of converting NPI into high-grade nickel matte was at least $1,000/mt (Ni content), and the cost of producing nickel sulphate from high-grade nickel matte was about $4,000/mt (Ni content). The market prices of nickel sulphate stood at 38,000 yuan/mt in March 2021, while the cost of producing nickel sulphate using this new process was 22,600 yuan/mt, making it profitable to shift to the new process of NPI-nickel sulphate at present.
China should improve its capability to secure nickel and cobalt resources and set up commercial reserves for the metals, the Shanghai Securities News (SSN) reported on Thursday, citing an official with the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association.
The world’s top metals consumer still heavily relies on imported resources of the metals.
China’s domestic nickel and cobalt production only accounts for 5% and 2%, respectively, of its total consumption, SSN quoted Wang Jian, the vice chairman of the association, at an industry conference this week.
NEWCASTLE, Australia, Oct 27 (Reuters) – A team of engineers at Australia’s University of Newcastle has patented a material designed to store thermal energy in the form of a block, which its inventors hope can be used to ease the transition away from coal-fired power.
Known as Miscibility Gaps Alloy (MGA), the bricks, made from aluminium and graphite, store energy generated from renewable sources, with the research predicting they can last about 30 years without any change in reliability.
Canada is re-positioning itself to take advantage of the growing electric vehicle supply chain, after years of overlooking the battery industry.
Despite the promising foundations for Canada to be a cornerstone of the North American battery supply chain, until recently it had appeared that there was a lack of support at the government/policy level to attract the industry. This is no longer the case, in just the last two weeks two cell manufacturers have been enticed to set up shop in Canada, with plans to build gigawatt-hour scale cell manufacturing facilities in the country.
Britishvolt, a UK-headquartered cell manufacturing startup, plans to build a 60GWh plant in Quebec. While Stromvolt, a Canadian headquartered startup, is planning a 10GWh plant in Ontario. Combined with announcements south of the boarder, North America has plans for over 400GWh of capacity to be built this decade. This is still short of the 508GWh annual demand the region will have by 2030, so expect more announcements to come.
BMW and GM scheduled to roll out EVs equipped with high-nickel Korean batteries at end-2021.
South Korea’s top three electric vehicle battery makers — LG Energy Solution Ltd., SK On and Samsung SDI Co. — are gearing up for full-scale production of next-generation batteries high in nickel content, which analysts say would widen their lead over Chinese rivals.
Global vehicle makers, including BMW AG and General Motors Co., are scheduled to roll out new EVs equipped with high-nickel batteries made by Samsung SDI and LG Energy, respectively, at the end of this year.
SK On’s next-generation battery NCM9, composed of lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese with 90% nickel content, will be used in Ford Motor Co.’s EV pickup set for launch in the spring of 2022. The new EVs running on Korean batteries will likely shore up the battery manufacturers’ bottom lines in the coming years.
A battery cell with a nickel content of more than 80% is classified as a high-nickel battery, offering longer mileage and shorter charging time than existing batteries.
The Kwinana plant, south of Perth, has produced its first nickel sulphate crystals, mining major BHP announced on Friday, stating that it was an “Australian first”.
The plant would produce 100 000 t/y of nickel sulphate, enough premium product to make 700 000 electric vehicle batteries each year
Nickel from BHP’s mines is processed at the Kalgoorlie nickel smelter, before it is transported to the Kwinana nickel refinery and refined into nickel metal (in the form of powder or briquettes). Nickel powder is then processed through the new sulphate plant to make nickel sulphate. The nickel sulphate will be exported to global battery markets from the Port of Fremantle.
The United States needs ten times the amount of rare earth metals it currently has to meet President Biden’s ambitious 2030 EV goals, according to one CEO in the business. And it needs 20 to 25 times more to meet the burgeoning needs of the green economy — and the military — as we increase investment in wind power, electric vehicles, and even cell phones to the year 2050.
To meet even part of that goal with domestic supply of rare earths seems almost impossible. And foreign sources are increasingly problematic.
The U.S. doesn’t necessarily need to cover 100% of its own needs for rare earth metals, Althaus says, even if that might be nice.
Even 50-60% would help ensure that the global supply is not weaponized by China — which did cut off supply to Japan for 40 days in 2010 in an international spat over territorial waters.
Today, even China is a net importer of rare earths: part of the reason for the countries expansive Belt and Road initiative.
Beijing has been criticized by the U.S. and environmental groups over projects adding to pollution in developing countries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday said Beijing would stop building coal-fired power plants abroad, in a public commitment to redirect the country’s huge engineering industry away from adding to a source of global pollution.
Beijing has faced pressure from the U.S., the European Union and environmental groups for having continued to finance and build coal-fired power plants in many developing countries, even as it said it would cut greenhouse emissions at home.