Chinese cobalt giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt had issued 6.25 billion yuan worth of private shares last month. It was selling its cobalt mine in Congo and investing in nickel mining in Indonesia.
South Korea anode materials maker Eco Pro BM, in collaboration with Australian mining firm Blackstone Minerals, is taking part in a nickel mining project in Vietnam.
It’s because the name of the game for battery material makers is nickel.
Battery cell makers are applying more nickel instead of cobalt. All the major companies __ LG Chem, Samsung SDI, SK Innovation, Panasonic, Toshiba, CATL, BYD and Svolt are developing cells with more than 60% nickel.
Cobalt and nickel account for 40% of the cost that goes into making anode materials used in electric vehicle (EV) battery cells. Nickel increases energy density in cells that allow for more travel distance per charge. Cobalt prices in the meantime have seen its price rise while mines where they are harvested have been embroiled in controversies from forced child laborers to environmental damages. Automobile giants such as BMW and Ford has even applied blockchain to verify where they were getting their supply of cobalt.
Anode material makers are following their lead. South Korean vendors EcoPro BM, Posco Chemical, LG Chem, Cosmo AM&T will all begin their NCMA, or nickel-cobalt-manganese-aluminum (NCMA), anode materials this year. Most of them offers over 80% nickel and add aluminum. Addition of aluminum offsets the stability issue that comes from using more nickel, while also allowing less use of cobalt that is relatively expensive.
South Korean battery makers are also ramping up their production. LG Chem is producing NCM712, or nickel, cobalt and manganese at a 7 to 2 to 1 ratio, batteries in Wroclaw, Poland. SK Innovation is producing NCM811 at its plant in Seosan, South Korea and Changzhou, China. Samsung SDI will soon follow with NCA batteries that boast over 90% nickel at Goed, Hungary.
Some Chinese battery makers are pushing lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries that is completely cobalt-less. They generally have lower energy density and are heavier than NCM batteries but cheaper. CATL has succeeded in applying LFP batteries for Tesla Model 3 sold in China. BYD is reportedly in talks with Ford and Jaguar Land Rover for a supply deal.