EV Metal Index quadruples year-on-year as lithium, nickel prices rally

GM is launching at least 20 new all-electric vehicles by 2023. (Image courtesy of General Motors.)

MINING.COM’s EV Metal Index quadrupled from May 2020 and added nearly 18% in value from the previous month, racking up the third best monthly total on record. 

The EV Metal Index, which tracks the value of battery metals in newly registered passenger EVs (including hybrids) around the world, came in at $477 million in April, an increase of 326% over the same month last year and bringing the year-to-date total to $2.03 billion. 

EV Metal Index quadruples year-on-year as lithium, nickel prices rally

Total battery capacity of EVs sold during the month tripled year on year to 19.2 GWh, according to Adamas Intelligence, which tracks demand for EV batteries by chemistry, cell supplier and capacity in over 100 countries. 

To produce the most accurate data, the monthly battery capacity deployed numbers in the MINING.COM EV Metal Index do not include cars leaving assembly lines, those on dealership lots or in the wholesale supply chain, but only end-user registered vehicles.  

The cumulative index value for the first five months is up 232% from January to May 2020 and is on par with total business done during all of 2018, when average lithium and cobalt prices were substantially higher than today. 

Lithium prices are averaging $10,800 so far in 2021 versus over $17,000 in 2018. Cobalt is fetching just under $57,000 a tonne so far this year versus more than $80,000 a tonne over the course of 2018. Nickel prices are also turning higher again, scaling $20,000 for the first time since February, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence data.

EV Metal Index quadruples year-on-year as lithium, nickel prices rally

Cobalt and nickel deployment was up more than 150% compared to the same month last year. On a per-vehicle basis (including hybrids) nickel use is up 4% while cobalt decreased 1% compared to the same month last year.

Average lithium on a per-vehicle basis use was up 20% year over year while total material deployed jumped 196% over last year with carbonate making up 49% of the total versus hydroxide, with the latter favoured in the manufacture of high-nickel content batteries. 

As a percentage of the overall index value, lithium represents just under 30%, up from a low of 20% in August last year when prices spent several months under $7,000 a tonne. 

EV Metal Index quadruples year-on-year as lithium, nickel prices rally

In April 2021, just some 16,800 tonnes of synthetic and natural graphite were deployed globally in batteries of all newly-sold passenger EVs combined, a 207% jump over the same month last year. 

Graphite prices have held steady around $720 a tonne in 2021, after spending all of 2020 below $700 and hitting a low of $644 in September.

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