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INTERVIEW-Nornickel bets on battery materials as electric car sales rise
June 29, 2017 / 11:31 AM / in 6 months

INTERVIEW-Nornickel bets on battery materials as electric car sales rise

MOSCOW, June 29 (Reuters) - Russian miner Norilsk Nickel wants to expand in the market for materials used to make batteries for the fast-growing electric vehicle (EV) sector, its head of marketing and sales told Reuters.

Nornickel, the world’s second-largest nickel producer and a major cobalt producer, and German chemicals company BASF said on Tuesday they were in talks to supply nickel and cobalt, needed to make lithium-ion batteries, in Europe, as the car industry’s push into electric vehicles gathers pace.

For Nornickel, this is just the start.

“We are discussing...transactions with several manufacturers in the industry,” Nornickel’s Markus Meurer said in an interview with Reuters.

Nornickel and BASF’s talks cover cooperation to set the foundation to supply battery cell producers for electric vehicles in Europe with regionally produced cathode materials, they said on Tuesday.

Meurer said the project with BASF would be developed over the next few months and that it was too early to say how much metal and in which form it would be supplied.

“Timing will depend a lot on market development and on technology....The important question is how to enable the ramp-up of production of battery raw materials in parallel with increasing demand,” Meurer said.

The number of electric vehicles on roads worldwide rose to a record high of 2 million last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said this month, as governments clamp down on fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel.

UBS recently raised its forecasts for global sales of electric vehicles in 2021 to 3.1 million from 2.5 million and to 14.2 million by 2025 from 9.7 million. It expects electric vehicles to account for 3.1 percent of global car sales in 2021 and 13.7 percent in 2025, against 1 percent this year.

Last year, nickel demand for electric vehicle batteries rose 20 percent to 15,000 tonnes, according to Nornickel.

Meurer said he expected demand for nickel from the electric vehicle market to rise to 300,000 tonnes in 10 years from 20,000 tonnes in 2017, making it the second-largest segment for nickel demand after stainless steel.

Global demand for cobalt, a by-product of nickel and copper, last year was about 100,000 tonnes, of which roughly half was used in batteries to power electric cars. Nornickel produces about 5,000 tonnes of cobalt a year.

Prices for cobalt metal COB-CATH-LON have nearly tripled to nine-year peaks above $27 a lb from below $10 a lb in Dec 2015. (Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Pratima Desai and Susan Thomas)

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