The market shifts towards high nickel-content cathodes.

According to the Adamas Intelligence, in 2019, the global deployment of nickel in passenger xEV (BEV, PHEV, HEV) batteries increased by 39% year-over-year to 59,271 tonnes.

The demand for nickel increases quicker than plug-in electric car sales, as manufacturers are switching to chemistries with higher nickel-content and the average capacity of the battery pack is growing.

For example the NCM 811 is a low cobalt-content cathode (nickel:cobalt:manganese at a ratio of 8:1:1).

In China, where NCM 811 was introduced on a high scale first, the nickel deployment increased by 56% year-over-year.

"Despite passenger EV sales increasing by just 5% year-over-year in China in 2019, the amount of nickel deployed in the nation’s newly-sold EVs increased 56% year-over-year due to a growing consumer preference for long-range BEVs with high-capacity batteries, coupled with an ongoing shift by automakers to battery chemistries containing higher concentrations of nickel."

Nickel deployment in batteries by passenger xEV type:

  • BEVs: 76% (up from 71% in 2018)
  • PHEVs: 4% (down form 5% in 2018)
  • HEVs: 20% (down from 24% in 2018) - high share is a result high use of NiMH batteries

By country:

  • China: 38% share (22,297 tonnes of nickel)
  • U.S.: 22%
  • Japan: 9%
  • Netherlands: 4%
  • Germany: 4%
  • other: 23%

On average, xEV passenger car needs 12.9 kg of nickel (58.6 kilograms of nickel sulphate hexahydrate equivalent) in its battery, although as there is a huge difference between BEV/PHEV, remember it's only an average.

"Overall, in 2019 the sales-weighted average amount of nickel deployed globally per EV was 12.9 kilograms (58.6 kilograms of nickel sulphate hexahydrate equivalent), an increase of 28% over the sales-weighted average in 2018."

In a separate report for the month of December 2019, Adamas Intelligence says that Tesla was responsible for 1,150 tonnes (52%) out of 2,206 tonnes of nickel deployed in xEVs in Europe, thanks to the Tesla Model 3 surge.

Source: Adamas Intelligence