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Value of battery metals in new electric cars up 180% to $600m

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The EV Metal Index, which tracks the value of battery metals in newly registered passenger EVs (including hybrids) around the world, totalled $599.6 million in August, an increase of 180% over the same month last year, bringing year to date total to $3.81 billion. 

That means that more EV battery metal business was done in the first eight months of 2021 than 2017 ($1.1 billion) and 2018 ($2.2 billion) combined. 

Total battery capacity of EVs sold during August set a new monthly record, surging 114% year on year to 22.1 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, only end-user registered vehicles.  

In August 2021, 13,455 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent were deployed onto roads globally in batteries of all newly-sold passenger EVs, according to Adamas. Average lithium on a per vehicle basis including hybrids was up 21% year over year in August, jumping from 14.6kg to 17.6kg.

Carbonate made up 52% of the total versus hydroxide’s 48%, with the latter favoured in the manufacture of high-nickel content batteries. 

Lithium prices have soared year to date approaching $30,000 a tonne (hydroxide ex-works China end-October) according to  Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a battery supply chain researcher and price reporting agency. 

The lithium subindex topped $200 million for the first time in August. As a percentage of the overall index value, lithium now represents a third of the total, up from a low of 20% in August last year when prices spent several months under $7,000 a tonne. 

Cobalt deployment rose 69% in August compared to the same month last year while nickel use was up 77%. On a per vehicle basis, nickel use is up 0.3% while cobalt decreased 4% year over year, as cathode chemistries which forego cobalt altogether like lithium iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries gain popularity. 

Nickel sulphate traded around $21,500 a tonne (100% Ni basis) level in August. Cobalt used in the battery supply chain has surged over the past year topping $60,000 a tonne compared to below $40,000 this time in 2020.

In August 2021, nearly 20,000 tonnes of synthetic and natural graphite were deployed globally in batteries of all newly-sold passenger EVs combined, a 127% jump over the same month last year. On a per-vehicle basis graphite use is up nearly 30% year on year to 25.8kg when taking into account full battery, plug-in hybrid and conventional hybrid vehicles. 

Graphite prices have increased 7.6% since August 2020 at $721 a tonne, according to Benchmark data, after spending all of 2020 below $700 and hitting a low of $644 in September. Prices for the anode material peaked above $1,500 a tonne in early 2012.