China’s NEV output surges in Q1 vs last year

By Carrie Shi
Published: Friday, 13 April 2018

China’s output of NEVs rose in the first quarter of 2018 from a year earlier, underpinned by the state's continued push towards electrification - a stance that many believe will support lithium, graphite and cobalt prices.

Chinese production of 149,998 new energy vehicles (NEVs) units, including pure electric vehicles (PEVs) and plug-in hybrids, in the first quarter of this year was up by 156.9% from a year earlier, according to data released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).

Sales of NEVs rose to 142,577 units in January-March, up by 154.3% from the same period in 2017, it added.

Output of PEVs rose by 124.7% to 107,826 units and production of plug-in hybrids increased by 305.3% to 42,138 units in the first quarter of 2018. Over the same period, sales of PEVs increased by 131% to 102,442 units while sales of plug-in hybrids totaled 40,133 units, up by 242.6%.

As well, China’s output of NEVs rose by 105% to 67,932 units in March year on year, reflecting the continued promotion by the Chinese government of the development of the technology. 

Production of PEVs of 51,140 units in March was up by 91% year on year while that of plug-in hybrids rose by 163% to 16,760 units.

Sales of NEVs reached 67,778 units in March, up by 117.4% year on year. PEV sales rose by 105.9% to 52,174 units while sales of plug-in hybrids were up by 167.2% at 5,602 units from a year earlier.

The Chinese battery industry’s strong performance has largely been supported by generous subsidies set by the 13th Five-Year Plan, established in 2015 by the Party Central Committee and the State Council, to develop, innovate and restructure the Chinese automobile industry. 

The main aim of this plan is to increase NEV production in the coming years to reduce pollution in the country via the establishment of a domestic battery industry that aims to produce 2 million NEVs by 2020. 

The growing number of NEVs produced and sold in China continues to support the price of lithium-ion battery raw minerals such as lithium, graphite and cobalt.

The price of battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) was 145,000-150,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday April 12, unchanged from a week earlier, according to the latest Industrial Minerals market assessment.

Spot prices for lithium carbonate in China remain at historic highs, however (see chart below).

Lithium carbonate battery grade Chinese spot market prices vs
large biannual EU and US carbonate prices

The price for uncoated spherical graphite in China, another battery raw material, has increased twice over the course of a month after a prolonged period of flatness.

Industrial Minerals assessed the spherical graphite 99.95% C, 15 microns price at $2,700-2,800 per tonne fob China on April 12, up from $2,500-2,700 per tonne fob China a week earlier.

Demand for the material - a crucial feedstock for the anode component of lithium-ion batteries used in EVs - is increasing, suppliers reported, leading to what they describe as a situation of tightening availability, which is keeping prices elevated.

On the export market, data from Chinese authorities on spherical graphite trading seem to support this picture.

In 2017, Chinese exports of spherical graphite reached a seven-year high of 40,871 tonnes, also up 25% from the previous year.

More like this