Battery Materials Offer a Silver Lining in a Slowing EV Market

Dec. 5, 2019

Despite the EV market’s current (and temporary) malaise, battery materials remain a bright spot

Following a reduction of buyer incentives in China earlier this year, the resultant drop in global monthly EV sales continued through October 2019, which saw a 19% reduction in passenger EV sales versus the same month the year prior.

Adding insult to injury, the global sales-weighted average passenger EV’s battery capacity, a metric that has increased relentlessly in recent years on the back of strong battery electric vehicle (“BEV”) sales, increased by a mere 0.5% in October 2019 versus October 2018 as BEV sales have continued to bear the brunt of the market’s slowdown since mid-year.

Despite the market’s current (and temporary) malaise, there remains a silver lining for suppliers of nickel, cobalt and manganese cathode precursors.

Average nickel, cobalt and manganese use per EV battery continues to rise despite slowing EV sales and slowing average battery capacity growth

In October 2019, the average EV sold globally contained 22% more nickel, 19% more cobalt and 15% more manganese than the same month the year prior, helping suppliers offset the broader slowdown in EV sales and average battery capacity growth globally.

Overall, nickel has continued to outperform the market due to the ongoing shift from low-/no- nickel cathode chemistries, such as LFP and NCM 111, to higher-nickel varieties, such as NCM 523, 622, 811, as well as the latest generation of NCA used in the Tesla Model 3.

Additionally, cobalt has continued to outperform the market due to the rising popularity of cobalt-bearing NCM cathode chemistries in China, which continue to glean market share from the once-ubiquitous (and cobalt-devoid) LFP cathode alternative.

And in similar fashion, manganese has continued to outperform the market due to the ongoing shift in China from manganese-devoid (or manganese-minimal) cathode chemistries, such as LFP, to higher-manganese varieties, such as NCM 111, 523, 622 and 811.

Looking ahead, with a rebound in global BEV sales likely for next year, we expect to see renewed momentum behind average pack capacity growth that, coupled with the ongoing adoption of relatively nickel-, cobalt- and manganese-rich cathode chemistries in China, will see these three metals continue to shine.

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