Lithium-ion batteries speed up the demand for lithium
Rising gasoline prices and increased awareness of green consumption have led the global automotive industry to re-examine its power-driven systems, and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries have now emerged as the appropriate technology for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).
Analysts pointed out that from the perspective of near-zero emissions, sales of lithium for hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) batteries are expected to exceed $500 million by 2015.
Currently, Rockwood Holdings, Chile's Sociedad Quimicay Minera (SQM) and FMC are the world's largest lithium producers, and their benefits are due to the large number of new applications for lithium.
1. Prospects for the development of lithium-ion batteries for vehicles
The use of lithium in lithium ion batteries has been confirmed. The first stage of the application is a mobile phone, which requires about 1/10 ounces of lithium carbonate per battery. The second stage of application is a laptop, which requires about 10 times the amount of lithium carbonate used.
Lithium batteries used in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) require more than 100 times the amount of lithium used in laptop computers.
Lithium-ion batteries are expected to be the key to HEV performance, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) use two systems, a combustion engine and an electric drive. The HEV includes a plug-in hybrid system (PHEV) that can be powered by battery power for a certain distance before storage of the combustion engine due to sufficient power stored. In addition, the pure electric vehicle (EV) does not have a combustion engine, and is driven by battery power only. Lithium-ion batteries are expected to make the price and performance of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) comparable to those of natural gas-powered vehicles.
Although nickel-metal hydrides have been used in most HEV batteries, such batteries are larger and less powerful than lithium ion chemically fabricated batteries. Toyota's versatile Prius hybrid electric vehicle is powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery. Toyota said it will sell 1 million hybrid vehicles annually by 2010.
There are opportunities for chemical manufacturers to invest in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). Rockwood has developed proprietary lithium salt salts that help overcome some of the challenges of battery chemistry. SQM has formed a commercial alliance with major cathode producers in Europe, Japan, Korea and the United States to develop lithium-ion batteries for vehicles.
However, the large-scale production of the automotive industry into HEV is still in its infancy, and the amount of lithium used in automotive batteries is still small. The strong growth in demand from other end users and the right price point will continue to support the growth in demand for lithium.
According to Bank of America Kevin McCarthy's forecast, sales of lithium for HEV batteries will increase to approximately $600 million in 2015. According to the analysis, HEV has many long-term development opportunities for lithium. It is estimated that about 1 million hybrid electric vehicles will be sold by 2010, and sales will double by 2015. Bank of America Kevin McCarthy expects that by 2015, battery usage will account for nearly half of lithium revenue, and pure electric vehicle battery usage will increase from less than 1% of total lithium revenue in 2007 to 1/4 in 2015.
Rockwood's 2007 total revenue from lithium carbonate, lithium metal and lithium carbonate-derived compounds reached approximately $450 million. FMC's lithium sales in 2007 were $210 million. Similar to Rockwood, FMC produces general-purpose lithium carbonate and dedicated downstream lithium products. SQM is the world's leading producer of lithium carbonate, with 2007 revenues from lithium and lithium derivatives of $179.8 million.
Battery and pharmaceutical end users account for approximately 40% of Rockwood's lithium supply. Analysts believe that in the near term, the demand for lithium will be mainly driven by the strong demand for butyl lithium in the pharmaceutical sector and the demand for lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide in other battery applications.
The consumption of lithium carbonate for batteries has increased at a two-digit rate in the absence of large demand for HEV production. Demand increased by nearly 20% in 2007 and is expected to continue to grow at a rate higher than 10% in the medium term.
In addition to battery applications, in the medium term, there are greases, lithium hydroxide for lubricating oils, lithium carbonate for glass and glass fusions, and lithium carbonate for air conditioning.
With the accelerated introduction of lithium-ion battery-powered HEVs into the commercial market, battery company Johnson Controls-Saft launched the world's first large-scale HEV battery production plant in France in January 2007 and has produced Class Hybrid electric vehicles with Mercedes. Signed a contract for the supply of lithium-ion batteries, and the Class Hybrid electric vehicle was commercialized in early 2009. Japan's NEC Electronics will produce 13,000 lithium-ion batteries per year by 2009 and will expand to 65,000 units by 2010 to be used in Nissan hybrid electric vehicles.
Plans are being made by some automakers to use lithium-ion batteries to drive hybrid electric vehicles. The Tesla Motor Company of the United States began production of the 2008 Tesla Roadster hybrid electric vehicle in March 2008 and will launch the 2009 model. Matsushita EV Energy Co., a joint venture between Toyota and Matsushita, limited production of lithium-ion batteries for vehicles in 2009, and will switch to mass production in 2010.
Other lithium-ion battery manufacturers include South Korea's LG Chemical Co., which has signed a contract with Hyundai Motor Co., Ltd. to supply lithium-ion batteries to the company's Accent hybrid electric vehicle since July 2009. Saturn's PHEV and General Motors' Volt EV were mass-produced in 2010. Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd. will begin production of 1.5~200,000 pieces/year of lithium-ion batteries for use in 2011 HEVs. Volkswagen's hybrid electric vehicle also used Sanyo Electric's lithium-ion battery technology in 2010.
In 2009, the automotive lithium-ion rechargeable battery market was formally formed. This is because Japanese and overseas automakers have begun to use lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in passenger cars. Among Japanese manufacturers, Toyota Motor, Fuji Heavy Industries, and Mitsubishi Motors have decided to adopt it. In Europe and America, Daimler also said it was adopted. In addition, Nissan Motors, Germany's Audi, and General Motors of the United States are also preparing to adopt in 2010.
The most important rechargeable battery that determines the performance of hybrid vehicles (HEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) will change dramatically. The reason is that Toyota, Nissan and other top Japanese manufacturers will launch models with lithium-ion rechargeable batteries after 2009.
The subject involves many fields such as HEV, EV, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Toyota said that it will start production of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries for PHEV in small batches in Panasonic EV Energy in 2009, and will begin mass production in 2010.
In 2000, Nissan, which was the first to be equipped with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery in the "TIno Hybrid" model, also mass-produced HEVs and EVs equipped with lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in 2010. The HEV is scheduled to be a rear-wheel drive vehicle, and a gearbox and a lithium-ion rechargeable battery that is placed in the luggage compartment are now disclosed. The battery will be supplied by AutomoTIve Energy Supply (AESC), a joint venture between Nissan and NEC and NEC Dongjin.
In addition to Toyota and Nissan, other major manufacturers will continue to use lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. Fuji Heavy Industries is scheduled to mass-produce the EV based on the "Plugin Stella Concept" in 2009. It will use the same battery as Ace, which is made of AESC. In addition, Mitsubishi Motors will purchase batteries manufactured by Lithium Energy Japan (LEJ), a joint venture with GS Yuasa CorporaTIon (GS Yuasa), and begin mass production of EV "i MiEV" in 2009.
Honda plans to add a new HEV model in 2009, and added the HEV model to the Fit in 2010, but it has not yet been shown to use a lithium-ion rechargeable battery on a conventional HEV. However, the FCX Clarity, a fuel cell hybrid vehicle that the company began renting and selling in Japan in November 2008, is equipped with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, replacing the capacitor that has been used before.
Among overseas manufacturers, Volkswagen Group's German Audi is scheduled to launch HEV in 2010, and the lithium-ion rechargeable battery will be mass-produced by Sanyo Electric in 2009. In the HEV that GM decided to launch in 2010, lithium-ion rechargeable batteries will also be mass-produced by Hitachi Vehicle Energy from the end of 2009.
2. Lithium production continues to expand
Rockwood, SQM and FMC account for about 3/4 of lithium production, and some small producers in China account for about a quarter of lithium production. SQM produces approximately 35% of the global supply of lithium carbonate. Rockwood produces about 30% of the world's lithium carbonate through its specialty chemicals business, Chemetall, and FMC's production is about 5% to 10%.
In 2009, the global consumption of lithium resources was 80,000 tons. It is estimated that after 5 years, the demand for only 10 million lithium-ion vehicles in the United States will consume 100,000 tons of lithium resources. Since 2005, the price of lithium has skyrocketed, from more than 100,000 yuan per ton to more than 600,000 yuan per ton in November 2009.
In 2008, global lithium production (expressed as lithium carbonate equivalent) was estimated at 80,000 tons/year. The current status of the global lithium carbonate industry is that the resource threshold is extremely high and the production capacity is highly concentrated. As of the end of 2008, the total global demand for lithium carbonate was about 95,000 tons. The major international producers include SQM of Chile, FMC of the United States and Chemtall of Germany with a combined annual production capacity of 79,000 tons, accounting for 80% of the global market share. Because large-scale production of lithium carbonate enterprises must have the right to exploit salt lake resources with abundant lithium resources, this makes the industry have high resource barriers; on the other hand, most of the resources in the global salt lake are high magnesium and low lithium. However, the process of purifying and separating lithium carbonate from high-magnesium and low-lithium old halogen is very difficult. Previously, these technologies were only in the hands of a few foreign companies, which made the lithium carbonate industry have technical barriers. Therefore, the global oligopoly pattern of the lithium carbonate industry has been created.
The three lithium suppliers mainly produce lithium from the brine storage of the “lithium triangle” (Argentina, Bolivia and Chile). SQM and Rockwood produce lithium from the Salar de Atacama region of Chile, which has the advantages of high lithium concentration and high evaporation rate, and solar energy can be used in the production process. In addition to South America, Rockwood also produces lithium from salt brines at Silver Peak, Nevada, USA.
FMC produces lithium from its salt-halogen storage in Salar de Hombre Muerto, Argentina, using a filtration process that is faster, but at a higher cost than other processes.
Previously, lithium was extracted from the spodumene deposit. However, production through this process, due to low purity, requires multiple extraction steps and is an energy intensive process. Only China uses a large amount of lithium carbonate from spodumene.
South America’s storage capacity is still expanding. SQM is expanding its lithium carbonate production capacity from 30,000 tons/year to about 40,000 tons/year in the third quarter of 2008. If the market demand is strong, it will also expand to 60,000 tons / year.
Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia has about 5.5 million tons of lithium storage.
Admiralty Resources plans to develop a salt-halogen mine in Rincon Salara, north of Agenyan, which has a nickel carbonate equivalent of 10,500 tons. After being put into production, it will supply about 20% of the world's lithium carbonate. The company's goal is to put into production in 2009. The 50-ton/year medium-sized unit was put into operation in April 2008.
At present, the economics of producing lithium from the "lithium triangle" still has a great cost advantage. However, the rising price of lithium is driving the development of storage outside of South America. Norwegian Nordic Mining Company became the first lithium carbonate producer in Europe to purchase batteries in Finland by acquiring a lithium development project in Finland. The company expects to produce 3,300 tons/year of lithium carbonate in Finland in 2013. Esmeralda County, Nevada, USA also has prospects for developing lithium salt mines, and Black Pearl Mining will develop lithium salt mines in the Great Basin, including California, Nevada and Utah.
In the past 20 years, Chinese producers have also increased production. China accounted for about a quarter of the world lithium market in 2007. In the next two to five years, China will greatly expand its capacity, and its production capacity is expected to more than double.
The raw materials of lithium-ion batteries are widely used in China. China is a world lithium resource country, especially the salt lakes in Qinghai and Tibet have a large amount of lithium resources. The development of salt lakes not only provides raw materials for low-cost lithium-ion batteries, but also contributes to the development of the western region. At the same time, manganese, iron, vanadium and phosphorus are rich in resources in China. The permanent magnet synchronous motor has the characteristics of small size, light weight and high efficiency, and China is a large country of rare earth permanent magnet materials, which provides material guarantee for lithium electric vehicles
China has discovered lithium salt mines in the Qaidam Basin, but the low concentration of salt mines in China makes the price of lithium produced in China twice as high as that of SQM and Rockwood.
On the basis of independent research and development of lithium, magnesium extraction technology and production technology in salt lakes, some large industrial enterprises in China have begun to build chemical production bases of lithium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide in the depths of Zabuye Salt Lake and Qaidam Basin in recent years. . At present, the domestic production of lithium carbonate is mainly concentrated in Tibet Mining, CITIC Guoan, Western Mining Group, Qinghai Salt Lake Group, and Tibet Mining and CITIC Guoan account for the majority. The two companies in 2008 lithium carbonate The total output does not exceed 4,000 tons.
On October 12, 2009, Toyota Tsusho Corporation (hereinafter referred to as Toyota Tsusho) signed a cooperation intention with China CITIC Guoan Information Industry Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as CITIC Guoan). The two parties will cooperate in the production and sale of battery-grade lithium carbonate and downstream products. . Toyota Tsusho is a trading company based on the automobile group business of the Toyota Group; CITIC Guoan is a listed company under the CITIC Group. It currently owns the Qinghai Xitai Ji Naier Salt Lake, covering an area of 570 square kilometers. It is a liquid lithium mine. The extra-large deposits have outstanding resource advantages in lithium carbonate. This is a new signal that the competition for new energy vehicles has advanced to upstream resources.
The Economic Commission of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China announced in late August 2008 that Tibet