China lithium ion battery EV electric vehicle supply chain

China controls sway of electric vehicle power through battery chemicals, cathode and anode production

Simon Moores, Managing Director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence will present the keynote: The Global Battery Arms Race: What next? On the World Tour East & World Tour West – a new online expansion of the Benchmark World Tour.

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New data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence shows, for the first time, the story behind how China came to dominate the lithium ion battery to electric vehicle (EV) supply chain by building out significant capacity in metal refining, battery grade chemicals production and cathode and anode making.

The chart below shows, in percentage terms, China’s share of global total production in 2019 for each stage of the battery supply chain.

It combines proprietary data collected by Benchmark for:

Upstream

Key battery raw materials of lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, manganese and where they are extracted from the ground (traditional mining or brine operations); This is based on location of extraction and does not include the origin country of the operator – something also to consider.

Midstream
  • Refining or battery grade chemical production from these raw materials
Midstream
  • Cathode and anode production from these chemicals
Downstream
  • Lithium ion battery cell production

While there is a common misconception that China hosts the vast majority of natural resources, this is not the case with only 23% of global supply of all battery raw materials coming from China.

Meanwhile, its dominance in chemical production of battery grade raw materials stands at 80% of total global production.

A quite astonishing achievement for a country that has invested significantly in its lithium carbonate and hydroxide, cobalt sulphate, manganese and uncoated spherical graphite refining, for example.

Capacity ownership of this crucial chemical conversion refining step ensures the global raw material flows point towards China for value-added production.

Meanwhile, the core building blocks of the lithium ion battery – cathodes and anodes – are similarly dominant at a combined 66% of global production in 2019.

This breaks down as 61% for cathodes, but significantly higher for anodes: 86% of all anodes (natural and synthetic graphite) are produced in China while 100% of all natural graphite anode is made in China.

Taking one step further down the value chain and we arrive at lithium ion battery cell manufacturing.

The rise of the battery megafactories, so often discussed by Benchmark, has predominantly been taking place in mainland China therefore it comes as little surprise that 73% of production last year was within China.

Of the 136 lithium ion battery plants in the pipeline to 2029, 101 are based in China.

Coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, China’s supply chain dominance puts it in the driving seat for the future of the automotive industry as EV investments scale and legacy ICE technologies falter.

The Benchmark data in this chart shows its dominance from last year, a picture that is set to grow in favour of China out to 2025.

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Where’s does China’s dominance of the lithium ion battery to electric vehicle (EV) supply chain lie?

China lithium ion battery EV electric vehicle supply chain