High Voltage: Rivian’s CEO reckons we’re only seeing the beginning of the battery metals shortage
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Our High Voltage column wraps all the news driving ASX stocks with exposure to lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel, rare earths, and vanadium.
Electric vehicle (EV) batteries and the metals used to make them – like lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese – could face a worse supply crunch than the semiconductor shortage, according to carmaker Rivian’s CEO RJ Scaringe.
“Semiconductors are a small appetiser to what we are about to feel on battery cells over the next two decades,” Scaringe told The Wall Street Journal.
He says that all the world’s cell production combined represents “well under 10% of what we will need in 10 years”, meaning that 90% to 95% of the supply chain does not exist.
Rivian is now looking to diversify its supply chain and build its capacity to create its own battery cells – but another player is already actively moving to build a battery plant.
Statevolt is a new US company recently launched by Italvolt CEO Lars Carlstrom, and the plan is to build a 54 GWh lithium battery gigafactory in Imperial Valley, California.
“Today, we face a significant shortage in the amount of lithium that is required to meet the demand for electric vehicles,” Carlstrom said.
“We are pioneering a new, hyper-local business model, which prioritises sustainability and resilience in the supply chain to solve this issue.”
At full capacity, the battery output will be capable of powering about 650,000 electric vehicles annually, Statevolt says.
The company has also signed a letter of intent with Controlled Thermal Resources to supply lithium to the proposed plant from its proposed Hell’s Kitchen project near California’s Salton Sea.
Curtin University in WA has been named as the first of Australia’s four “Trailblazer” universities, receiving $50 million in federal funding to develop a research commercialisation hubs for resources technology and critical minerals.
Curtin Uni will partner with The University of Queensland and James Cook University, and 33 company partners across Australia involved in value chains requiring lithium, nickel, cobalt, vanadium and hydrogen resources.
“The mission of the collaboration is to conduct and translate the research needed to link the value chains so desperately needed if Australia is to become a genuine international leader in efficient production of critical minerals, precursors and ultimately, metals,” Curtin Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Chris Moran said.
“In doing so, Trailblazer will add significant value, resilience, and sovereign capability throughout Australia’s critical minerals and hydrogen energy value chains.
“It will deliver the skills and the future workforce required to realise the potential benefits from our resources.”
— Curtin Media (@CurtinMedia) April 19, 2022
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Not a bad week for battery metals stocks on the ASX; 143 went up, 48 went down, and 29 didn’t move.
Graphite producer and battery anode material developer VRC was up 42% this week after signing a joint development agreement with alkaline battery producer, Urban Electric Power, and Volt’s tech partner in the US, American Energy Technologies Co.
Under the agreement, the two parties will use non-spherical purified graphite for conductivity enhancement and ultra-high purity graphite-based coatings to improve alkaline battery performance.
VRC managing director Trevor Matthews said the agreement provides a clear pathway for the development of commercially based technologies to improve alkaline battery performance and lower costs.
“The collaboration with UEP in alkaline battery technology combined with previously announced programs in lead-acid battery technology with Apollo and two lithium-ion battery anode material developments, including the Energy Supply Developer’s Super Site, positions Volt to become a battery materials manufacturer for the US battery market,” he said.
Up 41% for the week, the company got a speeding ticket yesterday, which it put down to a recent application for an exploration licence adjoining its Eyre Project in Western Australia, which adjoins other nearby lithium prospects.
Oh, and the announcement that drilling will commence at its Ohakuri gold project, located in the North Island of New Zealand on 10 March 2022.
Plus, an article published by mining journalist Barry Fitzgerald on Livewire on 14 April which “highlighted the company’s portfolio inclusive of copper, gold and lithium, and associated current commodity prices, which may be a factor in the share price and trading performance of the company,” LRV said.
The $19.5m market cap stock is up 108% year-to-date. It had $4.6m in the bank at the end of December.
The company was up 23% this week, after identifying spodumene and yttrium-bearing apatite in pegmatite veins at its Kalahari prospect of its Hopetoun project in WA.
It’s the first-time lithium has been found at the project, which covers an interpreted extension of the Ravensthorp greenstone belt – host to mines such as Allkem’s (ASX:AKE) Mt Cattlin lithium project.
The spodumene crystals are up to 5cm in dimension and exhibit classic pink fluorescence under ultraviolet light.
Plus, some of the veins contain similar-sized crystals of aquamarine apatite, a phosphate mineral which has measurable levels of yttrium on a handheld XRF instrument and which may be prospective for rare earth elements.
Grab samples of these veins have been submitted for geochemical assay with results expected by mid-May.