China has achieved key technological breakthroughs, will the cost of lithium batteries be reduced?

by:CTECHi     2021-08-20

Two days ago, someone on Weibo claimed that China’s electric vehicle supply chain is extremely fragile. Although he was slapped in the comment area on the same day, it seems that it is not good not to produce some new evidence.

In the past two days, overseas media have begun to discuss China's dominant position in the electric vehicle supply chain, including revealing that China has made breakthroughs in lithium mineral extraction technology. , The dominance of the lithium battery supply chain is further consolidated, and it has caused anxiety in the United States and so on.

Today, let’s talk about this.

China has made a key breakthrough in lithium extraction technology

According to foreign media reports, a recent report from China shows , China has made a major breakthrough in lithium extraction technology-the cost of lithium extraction with new technology has been reduced to 15,000 yuan per ton, which is a 'historical low' of US$2,180.

It can be referred to that the international price of lithium has fluctuated between US$12,000 and US$20,000 per ton in the past year, and the long-term contract price is about US$17,000. (Note, from this price point, it refers to battery-grade lithium carbonate.)

What kind of technology is this technology? According to reports from foreign media, it is mainly the technology of extracting lithium from salt lakes.

According to foreign media, according to a report by the Chinese government, Qinghai Lithium (a company established on the basis of scientific research and technological achievements of Qinghai Salt Lake Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences) uses new technology to The average profit margin in the past three years has exceeded 50%, and the total revenue has exceeded RMB 3 billion.

The company’s executive Li Jian (Li Jian) u200bu200bsaid that the above estimate of production costs is very accurate, but does not include after-tax and bank loan interest. He also predicted that with the continuous advancement of technology, production costs 'may further decrease in the future.'

(Additionally, Chile SQM, the world’s largest lithium company, The core asset is the Atacama Salt Lake in the Smart Northern Plateau.)

The cost of electric vehicle batteries is expected to be greatly reduced

Technically, it is difficult to separate lithium from other elements in extracting lithium from brine, especially magnesium is extremely difficult to separate from lithium, because these two minerals have similar ionic properties.

According to foreign media reports, this 15-year research project funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences has found a cost-effective way to obtain information from other minerals. , Especially the extraction of lithium from magnesium.

From the previous comparison, the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate will drop significantly in the future. (The cost of mining and extracting new technologies is US$2,180/ton. The world’s lower cost is US$4000-4500/ton in cash for FMC, ALB, and SQM. The international price of lithium carbonate is between US$12,000 and US$200 million.)

The report also quoted Dr. Ren Dongming, Director of the Renewable Energy Development Center of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, saying that lower-priced lithium batteries will benefit electric car manufacturers such as Tesla. , And ultimately benefit consumers.

China is the world's largest producer and seller of electric vehicles, and it is also known as one of the countries with the highest lithium content in the world. In the total cost of electric vehicles, battery costs account for about 30%-50%. Dr. Ren Dongming said that lower prices, longer voyages and better charging station infrastructure will make zero-emission vehicles a more attractive choice for car buyers.

(In fact, in 2012 before the new energy trend became a foregone conclusion, Chinese companies had begun to deploy extensively in global lithium resources, and the typical representative was Tianqi Lithium Industry, the world’s top three lithium giants, the only second in the world (the other is Yabao) owns the world’s largest salt lake lithium mine Atacama Salt Lake and the largest solid lithium mine Greenbush mine. )

The United States is legislating to try to contain China’s leading advantage

According to Benchmark Minerals Intelligence data, China has now taken the lead The supply of final products of lithium metal produces nearly two-thirds of the world's lithium-ion batteries (5% in the United States) and controls most of the world's lithium processing facilities.

In this context, the United States has begun to boycott China’s dominant position in the electric vehicle supply chain, and is pushing to help American companies to mine lithium and other electric vehicles that can be used for electric vehicles. Act for automotive materials: the Minerals Security Act.

At a hearing on the bill held earlier this month, U.S. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said that China’s leading advantage in the electric Occupy an advantageous position in the ongoing trade disputes.

'The biggest challenge I face right now is to educate other lawmakers, why this needs to be a national priority.' She said: 'Our challenge is still not understanding how the United States is here. The fragility above, when it comes to minerals that depend on others.'

In addition, according to foreign media reports, according to the statistics of the Chinese government in 2017, the salt lakes on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau will account for To more than 60% of global lithium reserves. Some research institutions also believe that China's lithium resource reserves are second in the world, second only to Chile.

However, China's domestic lithium mine output is still very low. In 2018, China's lithium mine output only accounted for 9% of the global lithium mine output. In recent years, Chinese companies have also been buying mines in countries rich in lithium resources such as Argentina and Australia.

However, China’s lithium reserves may be abundant, but many are also difficult to mine. Including the salt lakes on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, high altitude and low oxygen levels make it impossible to conduct large-scale mining here.

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