With battery supply chains concentrated in the hands of a few countries, forgotten metals can help emerging and emerging markets stay behind
The world’s largest battery company is making use of many available materials to redesign electric vehicle power supplies. While this can reduce costs and increase efficiency due to scarcity of abundant raw materials, it is an opportunity for countries such as India and Brazil to secure their share of the increasingly profitable electric vehicle supply chain before it is too late.
After China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. now he adds manganese to the mix. Ford Motor Co. recently added the LFP to its mix and will now import it from CATL for the Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning pickups. This latest chemistry, LMFP, and the promise of its commercialization could be another game changer.
In its latest formulation, manganese will increase the energy density of LFPs, enabling them to carry vehicles farther (while remaining a safer and less expensive option). In the case of CATL, the voltage will increase from 3.2 volts to 4.1 volts. According to Lithium Australia’s subsidiary, which is also working to optimize its own manufacturing processes to improve battery performance, the chemical can deliver up to 25% more energy density.
The CATL cells will be mass-produced later this year with a potential energy density of 230 Wh/kg compared to 150 Wh/kg to 180 Wh/kg. This is important because concerns about coverage and charging infrastructure remain the biggest barriers to widespread consumer adoption.
Manganese – and its effectiveness in electrochemistry – is often overlooked due to its low cost as part of an overall battery compared to other metals such as nickel and cobalt. It is used in higher energy density or nickel-cobalt formula batteries, but in lower amounts than other elements. Popular and popular among South Korean manufacturers, these power stations have been involved in fires and are considered unstable, although they can continue to drive vehicles.
Other combinations also exist, such as the increasingly promising lithium nickel manganese oxide, or LNMO. In the past, a persistent problem with using manganese was that batteries had a limited life and high resistance, which meant overheating and voltage drops. The CATL (and other) versions seem to have overcome this.
With this potential, the demand for the metal is likely to increase. While there is no shortage of manganese, it will be an important component for the battery. South Africa topped the list of producers, followed by China, Australia, Brazil, Gabon and India.
As battery supply chains become concentrated in the hands of a few countries (or just China, for that matter), it’s important that emerging and emerging markets don’t fall behind and pick up their share as well, rather than end up being bogged down by supply chain bottlenecks and growls. If they were incentivized to produce more of these materials, they would definitely push for electric vehicles. Ultimately, these countries must play an important role in electrification and help reduce global emissions.
India, for example, could be a key factor in reducing supply chain risk. There is a huge untapped reserve. Of the approximately 140 mines, several are currently inactive and nearly half of production comes from two dozen public sector mines. Most ores are suitable for steel and other more basic uses. Only a small part is intended for batteries but can be processed and refined into forms suitable for batteries.
An Indian government commission last month recommended exploring manganese reserves and increasing research and development efforts to study the metal’s use in powertrains, hoping to generate more political support. Effective functioning of all these factors can give India a place in the global supply chain.
It all comes down to cost, quality and carbon footprint, as the founders of Euro Manganese Inc. say. recently to me. Marco Romero. Countries like India can undoubtedly win in terms of costs in terms of labor, equipment and manufacturing, even if they can’t compete with low-carbon operations yet. The reality is that India needs to start with an added advantage. But for that he had to start now.
Until recently, there weren’t many other uses for high-quality manganese, so companies didn’t have much incentive to increase production. Those willing to invest now will have a first mover advantage.
China is already pushing the case with the “Manganese Innovation Alliance Campaign” launched at the end of last year. The state has mastered metal finishing. But after a year of supply chain snapping and companies and countries wanting multiple suppliers to avoid converging key resources, that means there’s room for that.