Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Switch And Lithium Race: Tesla Has Reached An Accord With Shanghai To Explore Production In China.




It is happening! Tesla comes to China, now the security of lithium supply will be in the headlines for the rest of the summer. We are at the tipping point for the lithium industry, the supply is not there to accommodate the exponential growth in EVs and Energy Storage space.





Awakening: Tesla Model 3 And The Hot Summer 2017 For The Lithium Supply Chain.






"Very slowly Lithium Industry is starting to get some attention from the investment crowd, but the real awakening is still ahead of us. This summer will be very hot for the lithium supply chain, and the first real test is coming. Tesla Gigafactory will start mass production of Tesla Model 3 batteries in July and 4 Lithium Megafactories are coming online in China.

Ganfeng Lithium has made a very interesting public disclosure in China about SQM "stopping a supply of Lithium Brine to Ganfeng in June". It is very difficult to judge the scope of this interruption in the lithium supply chain for Ganfeng at this moment, its reasons and when the situation will normalize, but the message is clear - the security of lithium supply is the critical issue for all the major players in this exponentially growing market. And the real test is still ahead of us, the auto industry is still talking about 5% - 10% - 15% of electric cars in total auto sales, but what will happen when all cars will be electric after 2025?

Update:

It looks like the change is affecting SQM's supply of concentrated brine to Ganfeng as raw material and changes in import and export policies in Chile demand to produce high value added products in the country. These products will cut the margins for converters - producers of lithium chemicals from raw materials like lithium brine. Argentina is coming to the front line of lithium brine projects developments now.

I expect this trend to be continued, lithium is taking its geopolitical place now and countries hosting these deposits will move up the value chain producing lithium chemicals, batteries and EVs finally. The recent visit of Tesla's officials to Argentina is showing the dramatic change in the attitude to the lithium supply. EVs and ESS producers will have to migrate to the countries with resources to feed Energy rEVolution. International Lithium's JV operations with Ganfeng attract a lot of interest as an entry point in the building of vertically integrated lithium business with one of the world's top lithium producers and we are examining these strategic opportunities. Read more."







Tesla Officials Visit Argentina’s Governor Of Salta For Solar And Storage Projects And Sourcing Lithium.





ElectTrek reports that "salt on the salad'": this is how Elon Musk has described lithium before - must be very important for Tesla's digestive system after all. I am writing here extensively about the coming control of the Lithium supply by Chinese companies who are very aggressively buying all the best lithium projects worldwide. It is very difficult to pretend anymore that any lithium will be coming from any signed by Tesla agreements with some junior miners in the nearest future. Lithium cathode is still produced by Panasonic for Tesla Gigafactory. 




Another part of this story is the rising price of lithium in China again. Last year we have seen only 14% rise in lithium supply and prices have increased by 74%. In December, Benchmark Minerals has reported that LCE (Lithium Carbonate Equivalent) was priced below $15k/T and Lithium Hydroxide (the particular lithium based chemical which is used in Tesla batteries) was around $18k/T. Last week I have received reports that in Shanghai LCE was priced at $18k/T and Lithium Hydroxide was at $22k/T. Today there are reports that LCE is already pushing $19k/T. It is all happening just before 4 major Lithium batteries Megafactories will be coming online in China this year and Tesla will move into the mass market stage with the production launch of Tesla Model 3 in July.





As you know, I have been preaching for years that security of lithium supply will be the most important factor determining the competitive advantage among different producers of critical raw materials for the Energy rEVolution. This Lithium Race will have the very far-reaching geopolitical implications. Now it looks like that Tesla is realizing that there is no secure supply of lithium for its massive expansion of operations from the underneath of Gigafactory floor in Nevada. Even if Panasonic is producing cathode for lithium cells which are made at Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada the supply chain is going all over the globe and back to China.





The real test to the market and supply chains for Energy rEVolution will come with the coming tide of Electric Cars and the following tsunami of Energy Storage. Bloomberg has recently reported that there will be more than 120 models of electric cars by 2020 and you should not be surprised as we have discussed here before that there are more than 70 models of electric cars on sale in China already. The next few years will determine who will have the keys to the new Energy rEVolution and control the supply chains. Hungry Dragons are flying high already and mostly in China, the question remains who and how will feed them without fear of being burnt in the process. 






Bloomberg:

Tesla has reached an accord with Shanghai to explore production in China