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EV battery lifecycles to be only five years: Berenburg Thematics analyst

Strasbourg, France — Electric vehicle battery lifecycles are closer to five years than the more widely believed 15-18 years, Asad Farid, an analyst at Berenberg Thematics, said Tuesday.

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The "second life" usage of EV battery packs in stationary storage commonly expected to add 10 years to battery cell usage is an unrealizable dream, Farid told delegates at the Advanced Automobile Battery Conference in Strasbourg, France.

Refurbishing, testing and sorting old cells for secondary usage in the power sector is highly labor intensive, Farid said. This is addition to the high degradation rates of battery cells after EV use makes "Second Life" applications unfeasible, he added.

Farid also projected that the capacity fade of EV battery packs will increase over the next five years due to three major factors: increases in charging speeds as charging points are upgraded to 150kW from 50kW, as doubling the charging rate increases the degradation rate by 400%; the market shift towards high-nickel-content batteries such as the NMC 811 from lithium iron phosphate(LFP) batteries and lower nickel NMC's, as higher nickel content batteries have shorter life spans than LFPs; the capacity of EV battery packs decreasing if battery costs only fall to $150/kWh by 2022, as smaller capacity battery packs undergo more complete cycles of charge than larger packs, which is increasingly taxing.

The projected shortened lifecycles of battery cells should see increasing numbers available for recycling in the next five years and with the present high costs of raw materials and uncertainty of supply for battery manufactures, recycled materials prove an attractive prospect.

Berenburg Thematics estimates that 262,000 mt of EV batteries will need to be recycled by 2022, which could generate 76,000 mt of lithium, 11,000 mt of cobalt and 20,000 mt of nickel.

This increased supply of recycled material could negate the potential bottlenecks in the supply of essential battery metals, Farid said, estimating that "30% of incremental demand for lithium and nickel in 10 years will be met by recycled metals."

S&P Global Platts assessed battery-grade cobalt sulfate CIF North Asia unchanged last Thursday at $12,800/mt. In a quiet market ahead of lunar new year celebrations, battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide CIF North Asia were also assessed stable at $12,700/mt and $15,800/mt, respectively, Friday.

-- Emmanuel Latham, Emmanuel.latham@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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