• Lithium batteries have dominated the consumer market while new applications such as electric vehicles propel future demand.
  • Asian companies race to lock up lithium demand while they increase their battery output capacity.
  • Asia has been forming strategic alliances, joint ventures, and acquisitions with lithium exploration companies worldwide.

Lithium has been one of the cornerstones of success for the mobile phone, smartphone, laptop, and tablet PC markets over the past decade. Lithium batteries for consumer electronics is an area that has seen significant growth due to population increase, increase in buying power in developing countries, and price decrease in electronics. Lithium ion batteries are at the core of many consumer electronic devices for their ability to withstand memory effects, slow discharge when in standby, safety features, and high energy density. The true tipping point for lithium-based batteries will be found with the widespread adaption of hybrid, plug-in-hybrid and full-electric vehicles, coupled with the growing need for utility-scale, grid-tied energy storage.

Asian manufacturers, which have traditionally dominated the global market for lithium ion batteries covering a variety of electronic categories, are leading the next wave of investment into production capacity. With production capacity comes the need for lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE), which is the raw material input for lithium ion batteries. Demand for LCE will grow from 129,000T in 2011 to 498,000T in 2025. The following graph illustrates the growth of lithium batteries with relation to lithium carbonate:

Lithium supply security has become a top priority for Asian technology and manufacturing companies. Strategic alliances, joint ventures, joint ventures and acquisitions, continue to be established with lithium exploration companies worldwide. This will ensure a reliable and diversified supply of lithium for Asia’s battery suppliers and vehicle manufacturers. With lithium carbonate being one of the lowest cost components of a lithium-ion battery, the issue that Asian companies are addressing supply security attained which can be achieved by acquiring lithium from various lithium producers. These measures have been ongoing since 2009 which has seen Asian companies establish joint venture and acquire existing producers. These strategic moves have allowed battery and vehicle companies to alleviate the possibility of future lithium supply disruptions, which could have devastating consequences in a well-established and productive HEV, PHEV, and EV industry. Consider that both Korea and Japan, who are amongst the largest producers of lithium ion batteries have no lithium hard rock or salar brine deposits within their borders.

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