WEBINAR: Battery-grade lithium standards should depend on technology, manufacturers

The standard for lithium compounds used in battery applications should be set by battery manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) based on technological development rather than government authorities, lithium market experts Emily Hersh and Daniel Jimenez said in a Fastmarkets’ lithium webinar on Tuesday June 23.

Lithium compounds are a key ingredient in the manufacture of batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs), portable electronics and energy storage systems (ESS).

“The lithium chemicals [specifications] are driven by the technology so changes in the lithium chemical industry will adapt to support that [the desire of battery makers to make long-lasting batteries with an extended driving range at the lowest cost],” managing partner at Buenos Aires-based advisory DCDB Group Hersh said.

Jimenez, partner at consultancy iLi Markets, added: “This is an evolving story and will continue to evolve but [the standards] have to be set by technology and energy density rather than what an authority wants to put in place or not.”

During the digital event, head of research for battery raw materials and base metals at Fastmarkets William Adams said: “I think the standards will be set by the OEMs and the battery manufacturers. They know what they want in their batteries and they have to provide guarantees on the life of their batteries… I think it is important that they have control over the specifications [for battery-grade applications].”

Earlier in June, European Commission industry chief Thierry Breton called EU governments to be proactive in having a voice on setting global standards for lithium compounds that go into battery applications or cede technological advantage to China, a key hub for the lithium market.

“The EU’s key trading partners are very active in developing international standards in key markets to protect and increase their competitive advantage,” Breton said in a letter to industry ministers in the 27 European Union member states as confirmed by the EU commission officials to Fastmarkets.

According to EU commission officials familiar with the matter, Breton said that the EU Commission would ask the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) to monitor work on lithium standards.

In China, the China Non-Ferrous Metals Standards Metrology and Quality Institute (CNSMQ) sets standards for lithium compounds used in battery applications that are widely accepted in the domestic market, one of the most active lithium consumers and processors globally.

Lithium compounds were traditionally considered specialty chemicals but are now showing signs of commoditization and therefore pose a structural challenge for the industry, such as finding widely acknowledged industry specifications.

Following a consultation with lithium industry players, Fastmarkets on June 1 amended the specifications of battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide assessments to better reflect emerging norms in battery-grade chemistry.

Fastmarkets understands that the lithium market is in its early stages of identifying standard specifications that qualify as “battery-grade”.

Therefore the suitability of any changes to the chemical specifications will continue to be reviewed on a six-month basis while the lithium industry continues to evolve.

See Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium price specifications here.

To listen again to the Fastmarkets webinar: “How Covid-19 has impacted lithium markets”, click here.