In this episode of CleanTech Talk, RK Equity cofounder Howard Klein talked with me about what’s new in the EV battery market, current & future supply chain concerns, Tesla’s battery progress, and more.
Starting off by taking a big-picture look, Klein summarized some of the big movements in the stocks of electric vehicle companies and related companies in the EV ecosystem. For example, he noted the sort of wild case of Rivian. He also touched on Lucid in that regard.
On the topic of cathodes, Klein talked about JB Straubel’s Redwood Materials and their plans to start building cathodes in the US, something that would be a big change in the EV battery supply chain in North America. Straubel’s plan is to have production capacity of 100 GWh of cathodes by 2025 and 500 GWh by 2030. Furthermore, he says that we need 4 companies in North America with equal ambition. On a related note, he said that Johnson Matthey just announced its exit from the cathode production business in Europe.
We also talked about the growth of the LFP market, including this great article from Max Holland that Tesla’s Elon Musk seemed to appreciate well before Tesla’s big announcements on more and more vehicles using LFP batteries.
No, but you make some great points. Important to note that iron’s cost advantage is partly offset by increased pack mass, so the fully considered cost is closer to nickel. That said, iron alleviates much of the scaling problem.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 17, 2020
Klein talks for a few minutes about the use of LFP (or not) in various markets, and also what that means for the nickel market and the lithium market.
He also discussed a notable lithium mine bidding war in Argentina, lithium prices (which have increased 3–4 times in the past year or so), some meaningful lithium mine sales in recent months. For example, he focuses on Zijin Mining Group, which is a large Chinese company that has not traditionally been involved in the lithium industry, buying Neo Lithium Corp. “Neo Lithium’s 3Q lithium brine project in Catamarca, Argentina is one of the largest and highest-grade projects of its kind in the world,” Chen Jinghe, Chairman of Zijin, said at the time of the acquisition last month. “The 3Q project represents an important addition to Zijin’s growing global asset mix and it is a good choice for Zijin to enter the field of new energy minerals. Thanks to the professional team’s efforts and input in the early stage of the project, we are confident that together with Zijin’s strong financial resources and mining know-how, we will develop this excellent asset into one of the world’s leading lithium carbonate producing mines. In accordance with Zijin’s co-development aspirations, we will continue to work closely with local communities and government authorities so that all relevant stakeholders can benefit from the project’s successful development.”
Klein noted that this deal and others in this space have probably been catalyzed to some degree by the greater movement to LFP batteries, since such batteries require lithium carbonate whereas the previously more popular, higher-performance, high-nickel batteries require more lithium hydroxide.
Klein also ran through some quick updates on various matters introduced at Tesla Battery Day in 2020.
For all the details, and the nuance provided by human speech, I recommend listening to the full episode on SoundCloud (embedded above), Spotify (embedded below), or one of several other podcast networks (linked below).
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