The New York Times reported, on Tuesday, that China is the only country in the world that can manufacture an integrated electric car battery with high efficiency and at a lower cost.
The newspaper pointed out that it is impossible for any other country to rely on itself in the battery supply chain without entering into a partnership with Beijing.
The manufacture of batteries for electric cars, according to the newspaper, is one of the most important races of our time, as countries that can manufacture batteries for electric cars will reap many economic and geopolitical advantages.
She pointed out that despite Western investments in the billions, China is progressing so much, in mining rare metals, training engineers, and building huge factories, that it may take decades for the rest of the world to catch up.
According to the newspaper, even by 2030, China will produce more than twice the number of batteries produced by all countries in the world combined, according to estimates by the consulting group, Benchmark Minerals.
The New York Times reported that China controls every step of the production of lithium-ion batteries, from getting raw materials out of the ground to manufacturing cars.
According to the newspaper, electric cars use about six times more rare earths than conventional cars because of the battery, and China has to decide who gets the minerals first and at what price.
She stated that although China has few underground deposits for basic components, it has followed a long-term strategy to find its way to cheap and steady supplies, through the acquisition by Chinese companies, relying on state aid, of stakes in mining companies on five continents.
China owns, according to the newspaper, most of the cobalt mines in the Congo, which owns most of the world’s supply of this rare material needed for the most common type of batteries. American companies have failed to keep pace with China in this regard.
As a result, China controls 41 percent of the world’s cobalt mining, and most of the lithium mining, which is responsible for battery electric charges, according to the New York Times.
The newspaper pointed out that the global supplies of nickel, manganese and graphite are many around the world, and batteries use only a small part. But China’s steady supply of these minerals still gives it an edge.
China’s investment in Indonesia will help it become the largest controller of nickel by 2027, according to forecasts by the CRU Group, a consulting firm, reported by the newspaper.
As for graphite, the newspaper stated that it is extracted mostly from China, while American producers make graphite at a much higher cost.
Western countries, according to the newspaper, also own mines abroad, and are trying to catch up with China, but they were more reluctant to pump money into these countries and were slow to increase their production.
China has become the largest producer of batteries in part by figuring out how to make battery components more efficiently and at lower costs, according to the newspaper.
The New York Times explained that the most important component is the cathode, which is the positive terminal of the battery. Of all the battery materials, the cathodes are the most difficult to manufacture and the highest energy consuming. Until the last several months, the cathode used a mixture of nickel, cobalt and manganese. This formula allows the battery to store a lot of electricity in a small space, providing an electric vehicle with a longer range.
But China has invested in a cheaper alternative that has now captured half of the cathode market, known as LFP, and has succeeded in making it from widely available iron and phosphate instead of nickel, manganese and cobalt.
China has spent more than $130 billion on research incentives, government contracts and consumer subsidies, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, unlike Western countries and the United States, which have been reluctant to invest money in electric cars.