What This Means for EVs and Battery Storage

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Lithium carbonate, the base material used in EV and storage batteries, has significantly reduced in value. As of the 4th of March 2024, the price per tonne of Lithium is AUD$22,026.50. This represents a two-year low, where the price per tonne in November 2022 hovered around AUD$80,000. 

The dramatic shift in the market should have far-reaching implications for the electric vehicle and battery storage markets worldwide.

Why has the value of lithium fallen?

All eyes are on China at the moment. The manufacturing behemoth is wading through an economic downturn, which has impacted its manufacturing output. The downturn has also impacted local consumers with a reduction in the uptake of electric vehicles. As the world’s largest consumer of lithium, the reduced need for lithium has seen the supply shortage ease, thus reducing its value. China manufactures approximately 75% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries.

What is the expected price for lithium for 2024?

Goldman Sachs projects that the price per tonne for lithium carbonate will fall to USD$11,000 (AUD$16,858.05) in 2024. It is estimated that the lithium market will remain steady into 2025 and then begin to slowly rise again.

Lithium mining in the United States
Lithium mining in the United States

How will the reduced cost of lithium impact EVs and battery storage?

The reduction in the value of lithium carbonate will have a two-pronged effect on the market. While electric vehicle and battery manufacturers outside of China stand to benefit from the reduction, the slowing of manufacturing in China will impact the availability of some makes and models. European, American, and other Asian markets will take advantage of the oversupply of lithium. What effect this might have on the end consumer remains to be seen. 

BloombergNEF reported a stark reduction in the cost of lithium EV batteries per kWh. In 2022, EV batteries were US$161 per kWh. As of November 2023, batteries have lowered to US$139 per kWh. While we may not see an immediate decrease in the price of EVs available on the market, the lower cost of batteries should see new makes and models enter the market at a lower cost.

Much the same can be said for battery storage. We can expect to see new brands entering the market at competitive prices. Existing brands will likely release new models with newer technology and comparatively cheaper prices.

Conclusion

Australia, as with most other parts of the world, is set to benefit from the reduction of the value of lithium. While we may not see immediate reductions in the purchase price for electric vehicles or batteries, the increase in supply and reduction of cost should see a boom in the industry. We should be cautioned, however, that there are still restrictions on the availability of other critical minerals that form batteries. However, the decreased value of lithium, and the abundance of supply, is welcome news for both the industries involved and consumers.

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