Graphite is set to remain the leading anode material
component for lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries in the foreseeable
future, with the battery industry poised to drive demand for
the mineral, delegates heard at the 24th IM Congress in
Barcelona on June 7.
Battery technology will continue to employ graphite as a key
component going forward, and demand will increase as a result,
according to Christoph Frey, managing director of Germany-based
consultancy and graphite trading company ProGraphite.
"Graphite currently holds over 90% of the market share for
anode materials used in lithium-ion batteries," Frey told
This position of dominance, he added, is expected to
While the materials and volumes used in the battery cathode
– lithium and cobalt among others – can vary
depending on the battery technology, and research actively
looks to develop alternatives to lower the exposure to these
materials, graphite is a constant, common denominator of all
batteries now in use.
Growth forecasts for the li-ion battery industry are
supporting the view that feedstock demand will follow the
"Demand for flake graphite from the lithium-ion battery
sector is expected to increase at a 15.7% CAGR [compound annual
growth rate], and graphite will keep its position as main anode
material for many years," Frey said.
"The increase in lithium-ion [battery] production is
unstoppable," he added.
Specifically, ProGraphite forecasts that the total battery
capacity required will reach 400 GWh by 2025, based on an
estimated EV output of 6.6 million units by that year (330 GWh
of equivalent capacity required), and including additional
demand (70 GWh) from other applications.
For graphite, this would equate to 440,000 tonnes of
graphite anode material which, considering a 50% graphite
content equivalent, would mean 220,000 tonnes of natural
Refractories, for comparison, would remain the single
largest end-market for graphite (forecast at 315,000 tonnes by
2025), but growth is at a meager 0.4% CAGR.
The company forecasts global graphite demand to reach
920,000 tonnes by 2025, which would be 60% growth from total
2016 demand at 580,000 tonnes.
"[Such an] increase in demand from 2016 is expected, mainly
because of the growth in the lithium-ion battery sector," Frey
China and EVs
The bulk of this growth is expected to take place in China,
and in the electromobility and EV sectors.
The Chinese automotive market is "the growth driver for
li-ion batteries", Frey said, describing the domestic expansion
of EVs as "immense".
For end use, different end markets have been supporting the
growth of the battery sector .
The initial growth trend for li-ion was mainly connected to
the fast expansion of electronic devices. This drove growth
between the early 2000s until 2014-15. This market is now
perceived as having reached maturity level – growth
since 2013 has been much slower than in previous years.
Over the last few years, EVs have been the new driver of
demand for batteries in China and, to a lesser extent,
Data from Avicenne shows that EVs were the single largest
component of total li-ion battery sales in 2016, accounting for
some 35,000 MWh globally. Within that, China accounted for
about two-thirds of sales.
Industrial Minerals last assessed the price of
uncoated spherical graphite, 99.95% C, 15 micron, at
$2,800-2,900 per tonne fob China on June 7. This was up from
$2,250-2,700 per tonne assessed on January 18, following
growing demand and limited availability.