Chinese electric vehicle battery dominance might end soon: Challenge to Dragon decoded

Graphite is an essential commodity for manufacturing the anode of Li-ion batteries and it is required in high quantities. China at present holds the upper hand with about 60 per cent mining of graphite happening there.

By:Updated: Jul 28, 2020 6:36 PM
Image of MG ZS EV used for representation

Ever wondered why China is the preferred supplier for electric vehicle batteries? The longer answer is well something that you will read in the due course of this story. The shorter version is graphite. Yes, the same material that as a kid one used in their pencil tips is widely required to make an electric car or bike battery. Unfortunately, China is the only one right now that has explored graphite mining across its widely spread rich natural resources. Post the pandemic, electric vehicle manufacturers that had earlier relied on Chinese factories for the supply of both lead acid and Li-ion batteries, have had a resent. Worldwide the sentiment against Chinese products and those originating from Beijing are being boycotted. However, the cost of making one’s own batteries is a huge expense and it seems an uphill task to procure them from anyone other than China. Not for this country.

Australian company Syrah Resources has developed its own mining facility. It has got mining factories in place as far fetched as Mozambique. Syrah Resources, Asia Nikkei reports, has commissioned its Louisiana plant in North America to purify the material for use in Li-ion batteries. Mining happens in Africa. Approximately 25kg of graphite is needed for a large Li-ion anode. Purifying this graphite for use in a battery is a highly expensive, time-consuming process. This is where China excels with its cheap labour costs and reportedly non-existent work culture. The world’s top three anode graphite suppliers are from China while the country holds the reigns for over 60 per cent of mining in this aspect.

Given that the US was the first country to have raised its sheer disdain for anything made in China, it pays to commission a factory there. Syrah Resources is going to tap into the requirements of European and of course the American EV makers. Many European countries too are up in cudgels with China after the coronavirus pandemic made everyone shut shop for a significant part. This loss in the economy and the sheer ignorance feigned by China is something the world will not forget for a very long time.

Joining Syrah will be fellow Aussie company EcoGraf. The latter will start its operations in Western Australia within the next two years. Its first assignment will be to supply graphite to companies like ThyssenKrupp in Germany. The uniqueness of the process adopted by EcoGraf for graphite purification will be appreciated by many – they don’t use environmentally harmful hydrofluoric acid. Through these methods, EcoGraf aims to gain more business and in a fashion, reduce its operating costs as well. It is being said that Japanese as well as Korean companies are interested in purchasing anode-ready graphite from EcoGraf.

Graphite used in batteries can also be made synthetically while it is said to occur naturally. The latter is easy to obtain while the former takes time as well as precious money to conceive. The key then for these Australian as well as future other countries is to have a sustainable ecosystem so that the dependence on China reduces. Indian players. are you listening?

Inputs from Asia.Nikkei 

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