Global lithium ion production capacity could reach over 6,000 GWh (6 TWh) by the end of the decade based on current plans, as companies accelerate gigafactory construction in Europe and the US, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.
Total lithium-ion capacity existing or being built has doubled since the beginning of 2021, following announcements of new plants by Chinese and South Korean battery producers, according to Benchmark’s Gigafactory Assessment.
The numbers highlight the increasingly global spread of battery gigafactories, as automakers look to secure local supply chains to lower costs and reduce the risk of trade disruption. While China still dominates global battery production, announcements for North American and European battery cell plants are accelerating, Benchmark said.
LG Energy Solutions said it would invest KRW 1.7 trillion (US$1.4 billion) to build a 11 GWh cell plant in Arizona (earlier post), while Mercedes-Benz announced a battery partnership project with Envision AESC, with plans for a 30 GWh plant to be located in Kentucky (earlier post).
In March China’s EVE Energy announced plans to set up its first European battery plant with an estimated capacity of 30 GWh in Debrecen, Hungary.
North America’s share of the global battery capacity is set to grow to 10% by 2026 from 6% currently, according to Benchmark, while Europe’s is set to grow to 12% from 7%.
At 6 TWh of capacity the world could produce around 109 million EVs, although this is based on all the plants coming into production and operating at full capacity. In reality, it’s likely that around 70% of the gigafactories in pipeline will come into production with an average global capacity utilization of 70%, according to Simon Moores, chief executive of Benchmark.
Of the 6 TWh of planned and existing battery capacity, around 26% is from Tier 1 battery producers, according to Benchmark. Tier 1 is defined as a battery manufacturer that is qualified to supply more than one multinational automaker outside of China—e.g., China’s CATL, Panasonic, BYD, Envision AESC, LG Energy Solution, SK Innovation, and Samsung SDI.
The Tier 1 producers led the majority of announcements of new cell capacity in March and April, according to Benchmark.
Lithium lagging. Battery capacity is currently growing at twice the speed of lithium raw material supply. A total of 6 TWh of annual battery production would require around 5 million tonnes of lithium, according to Benchmark. Production of lithium last year was around 480,000 tonnes of LCE.
Meeting the 2030 growth targets for electric vehicles will require the lithium industry to step up production, Tesla’s senior vice president for Powertrain and Energy Engineering, Drew Baglino, said this week.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said this week that a total of 300 TWh is needed to transition the world to sustainable energy via batteries for heating and transport.