The world is in the first phase of exponential demand growth for electric vehicles and energy storage systems.
The scale and speed of demand growth from new technologies will put critical metals supply chains under severe stress. This scarcity will manifest along geopolitical fault lines.
Growing consumer awareness of the environmental and social issues related to metal production means greater pressure on manufacturers to prove that their inputs are ethically sourced.
Lithium’s lightness and high electrochemical potential makes it indispensable to the batteries that are revolutionising the modern world. While the chemistry of lithium-ion batteries varies by use case, lithium is the key ingredient.
Traditionally used to make stainless steel, huge new demand growth is being driven by its ability to give higher energy density in lithium-ion batteries, ensuring exceptional performance and greater range in electric vehicles. Higher nickel content relative to cobalt also offers a cost advantage to OEMs.
Cobalt is an essential ingredient in high-performance lithium-ion batteries, providing greater stability. Some low-range lithium-ion batteries are made without cobalt, but for consumer devices and long-range EVs, the inclusion of cobalt results in safer batteries.
Traditionally an essential strengthening agent for high-performance steel, a key area of demand growth is in vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs), an important alternative to lithium-ion batteries for energy storage systems. VRFBs have longer storage duration and lifespan, making them ideal for commercial scale operations alongside intermittent renewable energy sources.
Often the forgotten metal of the energy transition, tin is used as the solder in circuit boards. It is therefore the “glue” that underpins electronic technologies: the more the world automates and electrifies, the more tin we will need.
Rare Earths comprise 17 elements critical for a wide range of high-tech applications. Most important are neodymium and praseodymium (known as NdPr), which are used to make high-powered permanent magnets for electric motors in EVs and energy-capturing systems (e.g. wind turbines).