Geoscience for the Public Good and Global Development: Toward a Sustainable Future
Natural graphite demand and supply—Implications for electric vehicle battery requirements
Published:May 01, 2016
Donald W. Olson, Robert L. Virta, Mahbood Mahdavi, Elizabeth S. Sangine, Steven M. Fortier, 2016. "Natural graphite demand and supply—Implications for electric vehicle battery requirements", Geoscience for the Public Good and Global Development: Toward a Sustainable Future, Gregory R. Wessel, Jeffrey K. Greenberg
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Electric vehicles have been promoted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen U.S. dependence on petroleum for transportation. Growth in U.S. sales of electric vehicles has been hindered by technical difficulties and the high cost of the lithium-ion batteries used to power many electric vehicles (more than 50% of the vehicle cost). Groundbreaking has begun for a lithium-ion battery factory in Nevada that, at capacity, could manufacture enough batteries to power 500,000 electric vehicles of various types and provide economies of scale to reduce the cost of batteries. Currently, primary synthetic graphite derived from petroleum coke is used in the anode of most lithium-ion batteries. An alternate may be the use of natural flake graphite, which would result in estimated graphite cost reductions of more than US$400 per vehicle at 2013 prices. Most natural flake graphite is sourced from China, the world’s leading graphite producer. Sourcing natural flake graphite from deposits in North America could reduce raw material transportation costs and, given China’s growing internal demand for flake graphite for its industries and ongoing environmental, labor, and mining issues, may ensure a more reliable and environmentally conscious supply of graphite. North America has flake graphite resources, and Canada is currently a producer, but most new mining projects in the United States require more than 10 yr to reach production, and demand could exceed supplies of flake graphite. Natural flake graphite may serve only to supplement synthetic graphite, at least for the short-term outlook.