Tesla moving forward
Tesla starts the fourth quarter with production of over 11,500 vehicles, including more than 7,000 Model 3s.
The land just outside Shanghai would be the base for its first overseas production facility and would let the company avoid 40 per cent Chinese import tariffs on vehicles originating from US.
Analysts also claim that it is possible that the new factory will also serve an Australian market, due to low cost of labour and geographical proximity.
Lepidico pilot plant
Lepidico has commenced development work for the L-Max pilot plant in Perth in Western Australia.
The L-Max technology is capable of extracting battery-grade lithium compounds from unconventional sources, such as mica.
The Phase One L-Max plant is engineered to produce 2,000-4,000 MT of lithium carbonate.
A Chilean court suspended the sale of shares in SQM to Tianqi Lithium Corp, considering a lawsuit filed by the Chilean company’s controlling shareholders, who oppose the deal, known as the Pampa Group, reportedly controlled by Julio Ponce.
The lawsuit comes on the ground that a previous anti-trust court decision supposedly did not give shareholders adequate time to review the agreement between Tianqi and Chilean regulators.
Tianqi operates with Albemarle the large lithium mine in the world. SQM shareholders seem to be worried that Tianqi might share industry secrets with its competitor Albemarle.
Chile supports LME plans
Chile, through its mining ministry supports the plans to trade lithium on London Metals Exchange to provide greater transparency to the market and therefore facilitate investment flows into the industry.
Bloomberg on Chinese lithium cartel
Bloomberg’s article argues the existence of a lithium cartel
Cartels are usually good for producers. Main thesis of the article is that in case of Chinese lithium producers it is different, since “China isn’t interested in lithium for its own sake, after all, but because it’s a key ingredient for the rechargeable-battery industry that Beijing wants to develop.”
It is argued that Chinese lithium companies, try to keep prices low and supply abundant to follow the goals set for the country’s economy by the party, and hence not really acting in shareholder’s best interest.
Battery factories in EU. Bright future?
State aid has been a controversial subject in EU, countries as Luxembourg have been accused in the past, for providing unallowed state aid, according to EU rules, through tax incentives.
The EU is however planning to allow state aid for electric battery research, putting billions of euros on the table for companies investing in battery factories in EU.
Brussels officials are concerned about reliance of European automakers on batteries from Asia. EU’s Horizon fund 2020 designates €200m alone for battery focused research.
This well-meant plans are very interesting considering that already the world is facing considerable overcapacity in battery production (estimates are on average that a production capacity exceeds demand by 30%).
Moreover, capacity is still ramping up. Only last week, Dutch Lithium Werks, announced a battery gigafactory project in China with planned production capacity of 500 GWh.
As InsideEvs observes, “Another day, another battery gigafactory announcement”
JV between Kidman Resources & SQM, under a name Covalent Lithium, aims to start its US 845 million project consisting of Mount Holland lithium mine and concentrator and Kwinana refinery in the first half of 2019. Its capacity is planned to be over 45,000 MTs of lithium hydroxide.
Who drinks more?
Lithium rich brine extraction in Chile is strictly regulated by the government. Regulation comes from the time when lithium was treated as a strategic resource used more in nuclear facilities than in batteries. Now the regulation is justified by environmental reasons and control of Chile’s mineral wealth, so it is preserved for further generations.
Several months ago, Chilean regulator discovered that more brine was being extracted from the Salar de Atacama in total than expected. Lithium is produced from the Salar by both SQM and Albemarle, who have production facilities very close from each other. Use google map satellite view to see it yourself.
However, the regulator was unable to determine whether it was SQM or Albemarle that was withdrawing more water.
Reuters in its new piece of investigative journalism reports that both Albemarle and SQM have accused each other of overdrawing brine from the Atacama’s underground reserves.
3 D printed batteries
Meanwhile researchers from Duke University in North Carolina, managed to print a lithium-ion battery, using a 3 D printer and their custom made “ink”. Currently one of the main problems for industrial designers is to engineer the shapes which will house standard shape and size battery packs to power the devices.
With 3 D printing technology batteries shapes could be customized to fit the most fantastic of forms. Obviously, the technology is in very early stages of development, yet the researchers managed to obtain a working prototype with it. You can find a research paper here.
If you are a VC or a lithium market participant interested in finding out about the latest breakthroughs in lithium and battery industry, hire Lithium Today for assistance.
Lithium & US defence industry – marriage of convenience?
An interesting article in E&E news mentions the possibility of defence contractors becoming strategic partners with lithium producers, in similar fashion to car manufacturers and battery companies. All on the wave of Defence Department report from beginning of October underlying too much reliance on Asian supplies. Actions driven from report’s conclusion could also bring a support for US based lithium producers.
It is curious that the report caused such a stir, as a word “lithium” occurs 3 times in the report that has 146 pages. It is effectively hardly mentioned.