High Voltage: Hot battery metal prices spark push to solid state

The heat is on in battery metals, with prices getting manufacturers hot under the collar. Picture: Getty Images

Wells Fargo analyst Colin Langan has slashed price targets for both Ford and GM – two of the world’s biggest carmakers – by over 50%, citing high EV production costs and tight raw materials supply.

Escalating prices for raw materials like lithium and nickel adds ~$US12,600 “in unplanned costs” to GM’s Silverado EV alone, the analyst said.

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“Given that auto manufacturers only make a few thousand dollars per car traditionally, I’d say the lack of foresight on securing battery metals supply is going to lead to some big problems with both output targets and profit guidance…,” muses Rhett Bennet, CEO at Texas based Black Mountain Metals in a LinkedIn post.

High prices spark scramble to solid state

It goes some way to explaining why carmakers are more eager than ever to develop EV models with solid state lithium-ion batteries.

Compared to the incumbent liquid electrolyte technology, solid state offers:

Longer driving range

Lower raw material costs (reduced/ no nickel and cobalt)

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Higher energy density

Increased safety (nonflammable)

Faster charging

Almost sounds too good to be true.

In March, South Korea’s Samsung SDI announced it has started construction of a pilot facility to verify its production tech.

“The site is expected to start production in early 2023 and the company said last week that it plans to accelerate its commercial-scale production, which it previously said would begin in 2027,” Argus says.

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In early April, Japanese carmaker Nissan unveiled its prototype production facility for solid-state cells, which it aims to launch commercially in 2028.

This week, China’s Linghang Guochuang said it is moving ahead with a partnership with US-based carmaker Mullen.

“Data collected from solid-state cell testing show impressive results for solid-state batteries, including potential range of 600 miles on a full charge and over 300 miles of range delivered in 18 minutes with DC fast charging,” the companies said.

Then there’s behemothic South Korean conglomerate POSCO, which expects to complete construction on a solid electrolyte material plant with a capacity of 24t per year in H2 2022.

It also invested an undisclosed sum in ProLogium, a Taiwanese solid-state battery start-up with ties to Mercedes Benz.

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Mercedes plans to use ProLogium’s solid-state battery cells in its passenger vehicles “in the second half of the decade”, Argus says.

Weekly small cap standouts

A +300% weekly gain for Galileo Mining (ASX:GAL) after announcing a major palladium-platinum-nickel discovery at the ‘Norseman’ project in WA.

The discovery hole at the ‘Callisto’ prospect returned a 33m-long intersection grading 2g/t 3E (1.64g/t palladium, 0.28g/t platinum, 0.09g/t gold), 0.32% copper & 0.30% nickel from 144m.

This 33m assayed intersection occurs within a wider 55m disseminated sulphide zone (126–181m) “indicating the potential for a large mineralised system”, GAL says.

Assays from a further five drill holes are pending, but GAL has already flagged strong geological continuity “with all drill holes intersecting disseminated sulphides”.

Special mention goes to the Mt Thirsty Joint Venture (50% Conico (ASX:CNJ); 50% Greenstone Resources (ASX:GSR), which is right next door.

“ … prospective horizons from GAL appear to trend on to ground held by the Mt Thirsty Joint Venture,” director and shareholder of CNJ Guy Le Page says.

“It appears around 1.5km of this layered intrusion (Mission Sill) appear to strike on to the JV ground (figure 8) and remain largely untested.”

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