Economic Planet | Battery Battlefield

The world is full. There are many battery manufacturing facilities that have been the nerves of the war between car makers.

Posted at 7am

Helen Barril

Helen Barril

More and more countries have announced the end of sales of new petrol vehicles in the medium term. Automakers are working hard to adapt to this new reality. Both have announced dozens of new all-electric vehicles by the end of the decade. The success or failure of this electric shift depends on the battery that powers all these vehicles.

The battery competition that Quebec is participating in for a “mine-to-mobility” position is already on track. Today, the value chain is a battlefield where some countries have a favorable start.

According to S & P Market Intelligence, China is still the world’s largest battery maker, accounting for nearly 80% of the world’s capacity. But things are changing rapidly, and the latest statistics are probably already out of date.

China is planning to build another 150 battery factories by 2030. Given that China is already a major market for car sales worldwide and will continue, China has the potential to remain the leader in battery manufacturing. The global market is expected to fall.

Elsewhere, the industry is organized around existing poles in the automotive sector. In Europe, Volkswagen alone wants to build six battery factories. All manufacturers are doing projects in the United States, where Tesla dominates the market. Mercedes-Benz has just opened a battery factory in Alabama and will supply automobile manufacturing facilities to land in the United States.

Tesla aims to build its own battery cell, which is also a trend among other automakers sourced from battery material specialists CATL (China), Panasonic (Japan) and LG (Korea). am. The goal is to shorten the supply chain and reduce dependence on China.

It is in this spirit that GM and POSCO, a South Korean company, have decided to invest in a battery material manufacturing plant in Becancour, Quebec.

Minerals and mines

We won’t talk much about that, but the proliferation of battery factories is putting greater pressure on us to produce more lithium, nickel, cobalt, and graphite than ever before to produce anodes and cathodes.

Where do all this raw material come from? Even with best practices, mining is destructive to the environment and is not welcomed everywhere. It takes time to increase mine production or move a new mine site to production.

The demand for lithium used in the manufacture of cathodes will increase rapidly and dramatically to supply new battery factories.

Therefore, the world’s leading lithium producers are already in a safe position in the battery value chain. Chile is known for having the largest lithium reserves in the world, but Australia is currently the highest-producing country. Bolivia could soon become a major producer of lithium at low cost.

The prices of the minerals most used by battery manufacturers will rise, and so will the cost of batteries.

Quebec participates in each part of the equation, from mining to manufacturing, as the carmaker’s ultimate goal is to build the most efficient car at the highest possible cost by the end of the decade. Ambition may not be realistic. We can even question ourselves: what remains for Quebec in this fast-growing sector?

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  • 200
    Number of battery factories expected to be built worldwide by 2030

    Source: S & P Global Market Intelligence (2021)