Lithium-ion batteries with higher nickel content will remain the flavour of the market, according to key market participants, but there’s a nickel supply crunch looming.

MetalsBulletin has reported the sentiment from Fastmarkets’ 11th Lithium Supply and Markets Conference, quoting key figures indicating that nickel will remain a predominant mineral in lithium-ion batteries.

“There’s still only a few cathodes with nickel content above 60 percent, but its use will grow in the next decade,” Pulead’s chief executive officer, Yuan Gao, was quoted as saying. “Cathodes with 50 percent and below will still dominate in China.”

Batteries with more than 60 percent nickel use lithium hydroxide in their cathodes, instead of carbonates for products with less than 50 percent.

However, conference attendees noted that batteries with 80 percent nickel would need to become more price-competitive before more widespread adoption.

But the longer-term outlook for nickel’s use in lithium-ion batteries has participants trying to scramble to secure supply.

“Nickel supply is what concerns me the most,” Gao said. “With the strong growth of the EV industry, there are lots of investments in Indonesia in order to develop projects, but it takes time to go with this route.

“And I don’t know if we have much time left.”

Industry forecasters McKinsey estimate total nickel mine supply should reach 2.47 million tonnes by 2025 — up from 2.09mt in 2017.

Demand, on the other hand, is expected to grow to 3.36mt in 2030, compared with 2.19mt in 2017.

As there is no significant mining project to account for this lack of supply, the quick increase in demand could leave the market in a shortage by 2030.

This content does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.