Last year, China produced 60% of all EV batteries made in the world, according to Digitimes Research, with Amperex the world’s No.1 producer and BYD the No.3.
Amperex and BYD are scouting for European sites for factories to make EV batteries.
Although the EU has said it does not want to rely on foreign suppliers for EV batteries, it may have to.
A May 2017 EU initiative called the European Battery Alliance called for European companies to build 10-20 battery factories.
Only one European company responded – NorthVolt of Sweden.
Meanwhile, GSR Capital of China is producing EV batteries in the UK, while the Korean companies LG Chem and Samsung SDI of Korea are about to begin production at European factories.
The China companies have been getting a large amount of a vital commodity in EV batteries – cobalt – from a Chinese company called Zhejisng Huayou Cobalt which gets its cobalt from the Congo which produces 60% of the world’s cobalt.
About 110-120,000 tons of cobalt are used every year of which, according to EnergyTrend, 7-8000 tons is used by China for EV battery production.
The price has risen from $30k a ton in 2007 to $85k a ton today but many Congo cobalt miners are treated harshly and are miserably paid. Child labour is common.
Apple has stopped using any Congo cobalt which is mined by hand and LG Chem has stopped using Congo cobalt.
Other companies are reviewing their sourcing of cobalt and this is contributing to rising prices.
Tesla and Panasonic are working on developing cobalt-free batteries for their battery manufacturing jv.