The Washington Post - September 16, 2021
At Tesla Inc.'s ballyhooed Battery Day event last year, CEO Elon Musk set himself an ambitious target: to produce a $25,000 electric ...
every aspect. China is responsible for about 80% of the chemical refining that converts lithium, cobalt and other raw materials into battery
At Tesla Inc.'s ballyhooed Battery Day event last year, CEO Elon Musk set himself an ambitious target: to produce a $25,000 electric vehicle by 2023. Hitting that sticker price -- about $15,000 cheaper than the company's least expensive model today -- is seen as critical to deliver a true, mass-market product. Getting there means finding new savings on technology -- most critically the batteries that can make up a third of an EV's cost -- without compromising safety. Alongside Musk, traditional automaking giants including Toyota Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG are pouring tens of billions of dollars into the race…The priciest component in each battery cell is the cathode, one of the two electrodes that store and release electricity. The materials needed in cathodes to pack in more energy are often expensive: metals like cobalt, nickel, lithium and manganese. They need to be mined, processed and converted into high-purity chemical compounds…At current rates and pack sizes, the average battery cost for a typical EV works out to about $6,300…But the industry average price of $137 per kilowatt hour (from about $1,191 in 2010) is still above the $100 threshold at which the cost should match a car with an internal-combustion engine. Costs aren't expected to keep falling as quickly, and rising raw materials prices haven't helped. Still, lithium-ion packs are on track to drop to $92 per kWh by 2024, according to BNEF forecasts, and $58 per kwh by 2030…One option is to substitute the metal with nickel, which is cheaper and holds more energy. Doing so requires safety adjustments, however, as cobalt's advantage is that it doesn't overheat or catch fire easily…Lithium-ion batteries, whether used in grid-sized storage facilities, cars or devices like smartphones, can catch fire if they've been manufactured poorly, damaged in an accident, or the software that runs them hasn't been designed properly. Incidents remain rare, but garner huge scrutiny in what remains a developing sector…Asia dominates manufacturing of lithium-ion cells, accounting for more than 80% of existing capacity…Grid-storage systems or vehicles traveling short distances can use cheaper and less powerful cathode chemistry that combines lithium, iron and phosphate. For higher-performance vehicles, automakers favor more energy-dense materials, such as lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide or lithium-nickel-cobalt-aluminum oxide…China is responsible for about 80% of the chemical refining that converts lithium, cobalt and other raw materials into battery ingredients, though the metals themselves are largely mined in Australia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chile. China also dominates processing capacity across four key battery components (cathodes, anodes, electrolyte solutions and separators), with more than half of the world's commissioned capacity for each, BNEF data shows.