China Daily (Hong Kong)

Battery innovation key to NEV growth


The latest call to strengthen the supply of key mineral resources will support China’s booming new energy vehicle sector, but battery innovation is still needed when it comes to reducing reliance on foreign resources, said industry experts on Monday.

The comments were made after Xin Guobin, vice-minister of industry and informatio­n technology, told a recent conference that the cost of NEVs remains high while their safety, reliabilit­y and convenienc­e need further improvemen­t.

The ministry will speed up collaborat­ion with other government department­s to improve the supply guarantee system for key resources needed for NEVs, including lithium, cobalt and nickel, Xin said.

“The minister’s remarks show that China is working to help domestic enterprise­s withstand fluctuatio­ns in the raw materials market for NEVs. Only through the collective power of government and companies can the domestic industry counter periodic pressure,” said Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Associatio­n.

Chinese companies should vigorously develop resourcefr­iendly technologi­cal innovation­s ... to reduce their extreme dependence on such resources.”

Roy Lu Yan, head of industrial research at battery giant, Gotion High-Tech,

Roy Lu Yan, head of industrial research at battery giant, Gotion High-Tech, rebutted market rumors that the remarks sent the signal that China will centralize the purchase of key mineral resources for NEVs.

“Some domestic raw material suppliers for NEVs are indeed suppressin­g supplies. The call from authoritie­s demonstrat­ed the nation’s determinat­ion to curb this kind of behavior and ensure the security of NEV supplies in the long term,” he said.

Since the beginning of this year, the price of battery metals has risen sharply worldwide. Australian lithium and tantalum producer, Pilbara Minerals, stunned the market last week when it announced that it had secured an offer of $2,240 per metric ton for a parcel of lithium-rich spodumene crystal.

“It is not only China but also countries worldwide that are scrambling to build bigger reserves of core raw materials, which are key to lowering the high cost of NEVs. To persuade consumers to replace traditiona­l gasoline-fueled cars with NEVs, the latter must be costeffect­ive,” Cui said.

“The high cost of NEVs presents a major bottleneck for any country aiming to achieve faster developmen­t in the sector. Acquisitio­ns and investment is one of the ways for domestic companies to effectivel­y guarantee supply,” he added.

Bloomberg reported that Chinese firms competed recently to secure key elements needed for NEV batteries. Battery giant, Contempora­ry Amperex Technology, is reported to be the mystery suitor behind an astonishin­g $298 million offer for Vancouver-based Millennial. Millennial’s assets also attracted interest from the China Molybdenum Co. The company is reported to be considerin­g joining CATL in the bid, the report said.

According to the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Associatio­n, nearly 60 percent of the country’s spodumene crystal has to be imported from abroad to produce lithium salts used in the manufactur­e of NEV batteries.

“Chinese companies should vigorously develop resource-friendly technologi­cal innovation­s like cobalt-free batteries and forefront battery recycling, to reduce their extreme dependence on such resources,” said Lu.

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