Automotive

Published on June 7th, 2016 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez

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Lithium prices up, but car battery prices stable

Global lithium prices have doubled over the last 6 months, leading to a rush by manufacturers for new supplies of the metal. Yet this price rise will probably not have a major impact on electric-car battery costs even as large increases in the global price of lithium translate into large increases in the price of battery cells. Even a 300% increase which at today’s price of from USD7.50 per kilogram rises to USD25.00 per kilogram there will not be an increase in battery cost of the same magnitude.

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The maximum increase in cost per kilowatt-hour for the four batteries studied would be less than 10%, researchers said. To realize even a 15% increase in cell costs, lithium prices would have to rise to between USD36.00 per kg and USDS87.00 per kg, as researched by people in the industry.

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The researchers believe those prices are “unsustainably high,” and would “trigger other lithium producers to enter the market,” increasing supply and eventually lowering prices.

Lithium is plentiful; the current sources are not the only ones available, but merely the cheapest, the researchers noted. If prices do continue to rise, one potential avenue could be the extraction of lithium from seawater, they offered. High lithium prices or not, carmakers and battery suppliers still need to achieve lower costs for lithium-ion cells.

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For mass adoption of electric cars to take place, cells will have to be cheap enough to allow for comparable range to internal-combustion cars, at a comparable price. This has led researchers to look beyond the current lithium-ion chemistry for more cost-effective designs, although lithium-ion will likely remain dominant for the time being.


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