The Massive Impact of EVs on Commodities
How demand would change in a 100% EV world
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What would happen if you flipped a switch, and suddenly every new car that came off assembly lines was electric?
It’s obviously a thought experiment, since right now EVs have close to just 1% market share worldwide. We’re still years away from EVs even hitting double-digit demand on a global basis, and the entire supply chain is built around the internal combustion engine, anyways.
At the same time, however, the scenario is interesting to consider. One recent projection, for example, put EVs at a 16% penetration by 2030 and then 51% by 2040. This could be conservative depending on the changing regulatory environment for manufacturers – after all, big markets like China, France, and the U.K. have recently announced that they plan on banning gas-powered vehicles in the near future.
The Thought Experiment
We discovered this “100% EV world” thought experiment in a UBS report that everyone should read. As a part of their UBS Evidence Lab initiative, they tore down a Chevy Bolt to see exactly what is inside, and then had 39 of the bank’s analysts weigh in on the results.
After breaking down the metals and other materials used in the vehicle, they noticed a considerable amount of variance from what gets used in a standard gas-powered car. It wasn’t just the battery pack that made a difference – it was also the body and the permanent-magnet synchronous motor that had big implications.
As a part of their analysis, they extrapolated the data for a potential scenario where 100% of the world’s auto demand came from Chevy Bolts, instead of the current auto mix.
If global demand suddenly flipped in this fashion, here’s what would happen:
|Lithium||2,898%||Needed in all lithium-ion batteries|
|Cobalt||1,928%||Used in the Bolt's NMC cathode|
|Rare Earths||655%||Bolt uses neodymium in permanent magnet motor|
|Graphite||524%||Used in the anode of lithium-ion batteries|
|Nickel||105%||Used in the Bolt's NMC cathode|
|Copper||22%||Used in permanent magnet motor and wiring|
|Manganese||14%||Used in the Bolt's NMC cathode|
|Aluminum||13%||Used to reduce weight of vehicle|
|Silicon||0%||Bolt uses 6-10x more semiconductors|
|Steel||-1%||Uses 7% less steel, but fairly minimal impact on market|
|PGMs||-53%||Catalytic converters not needed in EVs|
Some caveats we think are worth noting:
The Bolt is not a Tesla
The Bolt uses an NMC cathode formulation (nickel, manganese, and cobalt in a 1:1:1 ratio), versus Tesla vehicles which use NCA cathodes (nickel, cobalt, and aluminum, in an estimated 16:3:1 ratio). Further, the Bolt uses an permanent-magnet synchronous motor, which is different from Tesla’s AC induction motor – the key difference there being rare earth usage.
Big Markets, small markets:
Lithium, cobalt, and graphite have tiny markets, and they will explode in size with any notable increase in EV demand. The nickel market, which is more than $20 billion per year, will also more than double in this scenario. It’s also worth noting that the Bolt uses low amounts of nickel in comparison to Tesla cathodes, which are 80% nickel.
Meanwhile, the 100% EV scenario barely impacts the steel market, which is monstrous to begin with. The same can be said for silicon, even though the Bolt uses 6-10x more semiconductors than a regular car. The market for PGMs like platinum and palladium, however, gets decimated in this hypothetical scenario – that’s because their use as catalysts in combustion engines are a primary source of demand.
Visualizing the Freefall in Electric Vehicle Battery Prices
Declining battery costs are making electric vehicle prices more competitve. By 2023, EV prices could be on par with similar gas-powered vehicles.
Electric Vehicle Prices Fall as EV Battery Tech Improves
Electric vehicles (EVs) only accounted for around 3.2% of global car sales in 2020—a figure that’s set to grow in the coming decade, largely due to falling EV battery costs.
With rising production and technological improvements, batteries are becoming cheaper to produce, making EVs increasingly competitive with gas-powered cars.
Wright’s Law is Right So Far
According to Wright’s Law, also known as the learning curve effect, lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery cell costs fall by 28% for every cumulative doubling of units produced.
Wright’s Law has accurately predicted the decline in battery costs and so far, reported battery prices have been in line with modeled forecasts. The battery pack is the most expensive part of an electric vehicle. Consequently, the sticker prices of EVs fall with declining battery costs.
By 2023, the cost of Li-ion batteries is expected to fall to around $100/kWh—the price point at which EVs are as cheap to make as gas-powered cars.
|Year||Price of Toyota Camry ⛽️||Price of a 350-mile Range EV 🔋|
Figures represent the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
EVs are already cheaper to own and operate than comparable gas-powered cars due to savings from gas, maintenance, and resale value. Therefore, a reduction in retail electric vehicle prices may enable them to compete more directly with gas-powered cars.
According to ARK Invest, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of a 350-mile range EV will be on par with that of a like-for-like Toyota Camry in 2023. Furthermore, the price of a 350-mile range EV is projected to drop by 53% between 2021-2025—making it $8,000 cheaper than the Camry.
The Electric Catch Up
Electric vehicles are a key piece of the puzzle in the transition to clean energy. Hence, growing consumer awareness around climate change is a catalyst for the EV space.
However, as EV production increases, so does the need for various critical minerals, charging infrastructure, and more. Price is just one of the hurdles that EV manufacturers need to overcome on the road to mainstream EV adoption.
Ranked: Top 25 Nations Producing Battery Metals for the EV Supply Chain
Electric vehicle batteries harness the properties of raw materials to power vehicles. Here are the top 25 nations supplying raw materials for EV batteries.
The Role of Mining in the EV Battery Supply Chain
Batteries are one of the most important and expensive components of electric vehicles (EVs). The vast majority of EVs use lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which harness the properties of minerals and elements to power the vehicles. But batteries do not grow on trees—the raw materials for them, known as “battery metals”, have to be mined and refined.
The above graphic uses data from BloombergNEF to rank the top 25 countries producing the raw materials for Li-ion batteries.
Battery Metals: The Critical Raw Materials for EV Batteries
The raw materials that batteries use can differ depending on their chemical compositions. However, there are five battery minerals that are considered critical for Li-ion batteries:
Miners extract these minerals from economically viable deposits and refine them from their raw forms into high-quality products and chemicals for EV batteries.
The Top 25 Nations Supplying Battery Metals
Some countries are more crucial than others to the battery metal supply chain. BloombergNEF ranked the top 25 countries according to the following methodology:
- First, they tallied the mineral resources, mining capacity, and refining capacity in 2020 and projected commissioned capacity by 2025 for the five key metals listed above in each country.
- Then, to determine the overall score for each country, BloombergNEF categorized the countries’ capacities into five bands. Countries in the lowest band received a score of 1 and those in the highest band received a score of 5.
- The overall score is the result of averaging the scores across the five categories for each country.
Now that we have a better understanding of how the rankings work, here are the top 25 nations for raw materials in the Li-ion supply chain in 2020 and 2025.
|Country||2020 Rank||2025 Projected Rank||Change in Rank|
|Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)||8||10||-2|
China’s dominance in the rankings shows that refining capacity is just as important, if not more, as access to raw materials and mining capacity.
China does not boast an abundance of battery metal deposits but ranks first largely due to its control over 80% of global raw material refining capacity. Additionally, China is the world’s largest producer of graphite, the primary anode material for Li-ion batteries.
Australia comes in at number two due to its massive lithium production capacity and nickel reserves. Following Australia is Brazil, one of the world’s top 10 producers of graphite, nickel, manganese, and lithium.
On the other end of the spectrum, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, and Thailand are tied at rank 22. However, it’s important to note that these are among the top 10 countries for cell and component manufacturing—the next step in the lithium-ion battery supply chain.
Countries on the Rise
Sweden’s rank rises five places between 2020 and 2025p, largely due to an expected increase in its mining capacity with nickel and graphite projects in the pipeline. Argentina is projected to jump up to eighth place thanks to its massive lithium resources and multiple mining projects in advanced stages.
Moreover, Japan is projected to move up four places with its first lithium hydroxide refining plant under construction. In addition, Japanese miner Sumitomo Metal Mining is planning to double battery metal production by 2028.
Although China will likely maintain its dominance for the foreseeable future, other countries are ramping up their mining and refining capacities. Given the increasing importance of EVs, it will be interesting to see how the battery metals supply chain evolves going forward.
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