Recently, General Motors (GM) announced a partnership agreement with mining giant Glencore to supply cobalt metal materials required for the production of Ultium car battery cathodes at GM’s Murrin Murrin plant in Australia. This is to support GM’s plan to reach 1 million units of pure electric vehicle production capacity in North America by the end of 2025.
In addition to ensuring adequate battery raw material supply, GM and LG have accelerated their layout rhythm in the production capacity of power batteries in order to achieve their 2025 pure electric vehicle production and sales targets:
On January 25, 2021, GM and South Korean LG Energy Solution (LGES) invested $2.1 billion and planned to establish the third power battery factory in the United States. LG and GM already have two battery factories in Ohio and Tennessee, with a total production capacity of 70 GWh per year, which can meet the production needs of about 1 million pure electric vehicles by 2024.
Cobalt accounts for only 0.001% of the earth’s crust. Due to its good heat resistance, it can improve the energy density and battery life of lithium-ion batteries, which is very important in the production of electric vehicle batteries. Currently, cobalt metal cannot be completely eliminated in the widely produced power battery technology.
The distribution of cobalt mineral resources worldwide is extremely uneven. Currently, 80% of the total confirmed land reserves are located in a few countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Australia, Cuba, Zambia, the Philippines, Canada and Russia. Cobalt ores are rarely independent and are mostly produced as by-products of copper, nickel and iron ores.
With the growth of the pure electric vehicle market and demand, the global cobalt ore production increased to 135,600 tons in 2018, and the cobalt futures price reached $94,800 per ton. Since June 2021, the settlement price of LME cobalt futures has continued to rise to $70,500 per ton, and the domestic electrolytic cobalt price has risen by 37.8% to reach 499,000 yuan per ton. According to the new energy vehicle development plans of various countries around the world, the long-term global cobalt supply may face shortages.
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