Lithium has recently emerged as one of the key high-tech materials on the back of growing demand for e-mobility and electrical grid storage. Demand for lithium has also been on an upward trajectory for traditional batteries market and non-batteries end use sectors. At the cusp of growing demand with limited supply response, lithium prices reached its zenith in 2016. Commodity Inside assesses that the spot Chinese lithium price increased from $6,400/tonne in 2011 to nearly $21,500/tonne by mid-2016.
With such phenomenal increase in prices, lithium mining companies have rushed back to the market by announcing quite ambitious deadlines for their brownfield and greenfield projects. However, market fundamentals in the lithium market are somehow muddy, and a number of downside risks exist for new entrants in both brine and spodumene mining. Over the past ten years, we saw some bankruptcies and closures, though only Orocobre was able to add new capacity.
So far, demand fundamentals for lithium have significantly changed with advancements in e-mobility and upcoming Gigafactories. Commodity Inside anticipates that demand for electric vehicles will increase phenomenally over the next ten years, particularly in North America, Europe and North East Asia, creating a huge demand for lithium-ion batteries. Having said that, the amount of lithium metal requirement in a rechargeable battery is also set to shrink due to technological developments.