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Graphite: An Essential Material in the Battery Supply Chain

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The following content is sponsored by Northern Graphite

Graphite: An Essential Material in the Battery Supply Chain

The demand for lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries has skyrocketed in recent years due to the increasing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy storage systems.

What many people don’t realize, however, is that the key component of these batteries is not just lithium, but also graphite.

Graphite represents almost 50% of the materials needed for batteries by weight, regardless of the chemistry. In Li-ion batteries specifically, graphite makes up the anode, which is the negative electrode responsible for storing and releasing electrons during the charging and discharging process.

To explore just how essential graphite is in the battery supply chain, this infographic sponsored by Northern Graphite dives into how the anode of a Li-ion battery is made.

What is Graphite?

Graphite is a naturally occurring form of carbon that is used in a wide range of industrial applications, including in synthetic diamonds, EV Li-ion batteries, pencils, lubricants, and semiconductor substrates.

It is stable, high-performing, and reusable. While it comes in many different grades and forms, battery-grade graphite falls into one of two classes: natural or synthetic.

Natural graphite is produced by mining naturally occurring mineral deposits. This method produces only one to two kilograms of CO2 emissions per kilogram of graphite.

Synthetic graphite, on the other hand, is produced by the treatment of petroleum coke and coal tar, producing nearly 5 kg of CO2 per kilogram of graphite along with other harmful emissions such as sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide.

A Closer Look: How Graphite Turns into a Li-ion Battery Anode

The battery anode production process is composed of four overarching steps. These are:

  1. Mining
  2. Shaping
  3. Purifying
  4. Coating

Each of these stages results in various forms of graphite with different end-uses.

For instance, the micronized graphite that results from the shaping process can be used in plastic additives. On the other hand, only coated spherical purified graphite that went through all four of the above stages can be used in EV Li-ion batteries.

The Graphite Supply Chain

Despite its growing use in the energy transition all around the world, around 70% of the world’s graphite currently comes from China.

With scarce alternatives to be used in batteries, however, achieving supply security in North America is crucial, and it is using more environmentally friendly approaches to graphite processing.

With a lower environmental footprint and lower production costs, natural graphite serves as the anode material for a greener future.

Click here to learn more about how Northern Graphite plans to build the largest Battery Anode Material (BAM) plant in North America.

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Electrification

Charted: 4 Reasons Why Lithium Could Be the Next Gold Rush

Visual Capitalist has partnered with EnergyX to show why drops in prices and growing demand may make now the right time to invest in lithium.

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The teaser image shows a bubble chart showing that the price of a Tesla is similar to that of other major auto manufacturers.

4 Reasons Why You Should Invest in Lithium

Lithium’s importance in powering EVs makes it a linchpin of the clean energy transition and one of the world’s most precious minerals.

In this graphic, Visual Capitalist partnered with EnergyX to explore why now may be the time to invest in lithium.

1. Lithium Prices Have Dropped

One of the most critical aspects of evaluating an investment is ensuring that the asset’s value is higher than its price would indicate. Lithium is integral to powering EVs, and, prices have fallen fast over the last year:

DateLiOH·H₂O*Li₂CO₃**
Feb 2023$76$71
March 2023$71$61
Apr 2023$43$33
May 2023$43$33
June 2023$47$45
July 2023$44$40
Aug 2023$35$35
Sept 2023$28$27
Oct 2023$24$23
Nov 2023$21$21
Dec 2023$17$16
Jan 2024$14$15
Feb 2024$13$14

Note: Monthly spot prices were taken as close to the 14th of each month as possible.
*Lithium hydroxide monohydrate (MB-LI-0033)
**Lithium carbonate (MB-LI-0029)

2. Lithium-Ion Battery Prices Are Also Falling

The drop in lithium prices is just one reason to invest in the metal. Increasing economies of scale, coupled with low commodity prices, have caused the cost of lithium-ion batteries to drop significantly as well.

In fact, BNEF reports that between 2013 and 2023, the price of a Li-ion battery dropped by 82%.

YearPrice per KWh
2023$139
2022$161
2021$150
2020$160
2019$183
2018$211
2017$258
2016$345
2015$448
2014$692
2013$780

3. EV Adoption is Sustainable

One of the best reasons to invest in lithium is that EVs, one of the main drivers behind the demand for lithium, have reached a price point similar to that of traditional vehicle.

According to the Kelly Blue Book, Tesla’s average transaction price dropped by 25% between 2022 and 2023, bringing it in line with many other major manufacturers and showing that EVs are a realistic transport option from a consumer price perspective.

ManufacturerSeptember 2022September 2023
BMW$69,000$72,000
Ford$54,000$56,000
Volkswagon$54,000$56,000
General Motors$52,000$53,000
Tesla$68,000$51,000

4. Electricity Demand in Transport is Growing

As EVs become an accessible transport option, there’s an investment opportunity in lithium. But possibly the best reason to invest in lithium is that the IEA reports global demand for the electricity in transport could grow dramatically by 2030:

Transport Type202220252030
Buses 🚌23,000 GWh50,000 GWh130,000 GWh
Cars 🚙65,000 GWh200,000 GWh570,000 GWh
Trucks 🛻4,000 GWh15,000 GWh94,000 GWh
Vans 🚐6,000 GWh16,000 GWh72,000 GWh

The Lithium Investment Opportunity

Lithium presents a potentially classic investment opportunity. Lithium and battery prices have dropped significantly, and recently, EVs have reached a price point similar to other vehicles. By 2030, the demand for clean energy, especially in transport, will grow dramatically.

With prices dropping and demand skyrocketing, now is the time to invest in lithium.

EnergyX is poised to exploit lithium demand with cutting-edge lithium extraction technology capable of extracting 300% more lithium than current processes.

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Electrification

Ranked: The Top 10 EV Battery Manufacturers in 2023

Asia dominates this ranking of the world’s largest EV battery manufacturers in 2023.

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A treemap showing the top 10 EV battery manufacturers in 2023

The Top 10 EV Battery Manufacturers in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Despite efforts from the U.S. and EU to secure local domestic supply, all major EV battery manufacturers remain based in Asia.

In this graphic we rank the top 10 EV battery manufacturers by total battery deployment (measured in megawatt-hours) in 2023. The data is from EV Volumes.

Chinese Dominance

Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL) has swiftly risen in less than a decade to claim the title of the largest global battery group.

The Chinese company now has a 34% share of the market and supplies batteries to a range of made-in-China vehicles, including the Tesla Model Y, SAIC’s MG4/Mulan, and Li Auto models.

CompanyCountry2023 Production
(megawatt-hour)
Share of Total
Production
CATL🇨🇳China242,70034%
BYD🇨🇳China115,91716%
LG Energy Solution🇰🇷Korea108,48715%
Panasonic🇯🇵Japan56,5608%
SK On🇰🇷Korea40,7116%
Samsung SDI🇰🇷Korea35,7035%
CALB🇨🇳China23,4933%
Farasis Energy🇨🇳China16,5272%
Envision AESC🇨🇳China8,3421%
Sunwoda🇨🇳China6,9791%
Other-56,0408%

In 2023, BYD surpassed LG Energy Solution to claim second place. This was driven by demand from its own models and growth in third-party deals, including providing batteries for the made-in-Germany Tesla Model Y, Toyota bZ3, Changan UNI-V, Venucia V-Online, as well as several Haval and FAW models.

The top three battery makers (CATL, BYD, LG) collectively account for two-thirds (66%) of total battery deployment.

Once a leader in the EV battery business, Panasonic now holds the fourth position with an 8% market share, down from 9% last year. With its main client, Tesla, now effectively sourcing batteries from multiple suppliers, the Japanese battery maker seems to be losing its competitive edge in the industry.

Overall, the global EV battery market size is projected to grow from $49 billion in 2022 to $98 billion by 2029, according to Fortune Business Insights.

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