Data from October 2023
The main components of a lithium-ion battery are the two electrodes, called anode and cathode, as well as the separator and the electrolyte that creates the ionic conductivity in the battery. In 2023, the battery materials industry was able to generate revenues of approximately USD 50 billion. The largest share of the market volume is taken by cathode production due to the valuable raw materials inside. A very large share of the production of the materials takes place in Asia, just like the cell production itself.
The tool window illustrates the demand for battery materials needed for the production of the battery cells (covering the market demand).
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When analyzing the production locations, China in particular stands out with market shares of over 80 percent in some cases, depending on the component. Individual Asian manufacturers, above all the Chinese companies, have grown together with the cell manufacturers and in some cases have a global market share of up to 20 percent.
In addition to the four battery components mentioned, other battery components not integrated in the tool include the two current collector foils (on which the anode and cathode active materials are applied) and the cell housing. On the anode side, copper is usually used as the current collector, while aluminum can be used on the cathode side. The housing differs for different cell formats (see tool window »Cell Production«). For pouch cells it is a coated aluminum foil, for prismatic and cylindrical cells mostly different steel housings are used.
In 2022, 98 percent of anode materials came from China, Japan and Korea. A closer look at the largest manufacturers shows that the four largest anode manufacturers alone come from China and together they account for a market share of over 50 percent. Japan, by comparison, had a market share of 16 percent, and Korea 9 percent. In Europe, there are only very small companies with globally irrelevant market shares.
Average costs for anodes today are around 8,000-8,500 USD/t. The costs have been decreasing continuously over the last few years from about 15,000 USD/t in 2010. This downward trend may continue (slower) in the future. In 2030, prices could be around 7,500 USD/t. With a demand of about 550 kt of active material today, this means a revenue for producers of about USD 4.5 billion.
In addition to the current origin of the materials, there is an interest in analyzing the individual cell chemistries for anodes but also for cathodes. Whereas ten years ago graphite anodes were used almost exclusively, the proportion (in addition to a very small proportion of lithium-titanium-oxide (LTO) cells at the beginning of the last decade) has only decreased since around 2018 due to a more widespread addition of silicon. Silicon is used to achieve higher energy densities of the active material. As a further development, pure lithium metal can also be used. However, these cells are not yet on the market and will only be used on a large scale in a few years (if commercialization is successful).
In contrast to anode materials, there is a much wider range of possible cell chemistries for cathode materials. These consist of different combinations of materials and differ greatly in some cases in their KPIs, e.g. prices or energy densities that can be achieved. In recent years, there has been a strong increase in the proportion of materials with a high nickel content, for example cathodes made of nickel, manganese and cobalt (NMC) and nickel, cobalt and aluminum oxide (NCA). This is primarily due to the high energy densities enabled by these cell chemistries. In NMC materials, there are different compositions of the three metals. The more nickel-rich the material, the higher the energy density that can be achieved and moreover this saves the expensive cobalt. More recently, however, lithium iron phosphate (LFP) has also become increasingly popular. This primarily has price advantages over nickel-rich components. As battery applications penetrate further into the mass market, the cost advantages become more important and can thus be the decisive criterion for the choice of active material over and above the lower energy density of the material. In the past, there were also lithium manganese oxides (LMO) and lithium cobalt oxides (LCO). However, these are no longer state of the art due to their lower energy density (LMO) or high price (LCO).
As already mentioned, the cathode material causes the highest costs among the active materials. In 2010, the average price per ton was over 34,000 USD. The price has continuously decreased over the last few years and is now between 20.000 and 25,000 USD/t. This cost degression will slow down somewhat over the next few years. Nevertheless, the price could fall to around 15,000 - 20.000 USD/t by 2030. Due to the growing demand for cells, about 1,600 kt of cathode material, worth around USD 40 billion, is currently needed per year for cell production.
From a European perspective, the only major and relevant players among the four components under consideration are the cathode manufacturers in an international comparison. In 2022, BASF from Germany (<1 percent market share) and Umicore from Belgium (6 percent market share) were important cathode material producers. However, with a market share of over 66 percent, China again has the largest market share in total (2022). This is followed by Korea (19 percent) and Japan (7 percent).
Unlike anodes and cathodes, there is no subdivision into different materials for the electrolyte materials. Since the beginning of the commercialization of LIB, LiPF6 has been used as the electrolyte. The market is thus growing in proportion to the demand for batteries. Various additives are added to LiPF6 to increase, for example, conductivity, service life, but also chemical compatibility.
The total demand for the necessary electrolyte per year was about 350 kt in 2023. The price development compared to active materials is much more static for electrolyte than for anodes or cathodes. For several years, the price has been around 8000 USD/t and it can be assumed that this will remain stable in the near future. Thus, the value of the electrolyte needed in 2023 is about USD 3.5 billion.
The main suppliers of electrolyte in 2022 were China (72 percent), Korea (12 percent) and Japan (16 percent). In Europe, there are only small companies and startups that focus primarily on the production of new material formulations or the optimization of additive use.
Separators are divided into dry processing separators and wet processing separators, depending on the manufacturing process. The sizes shown in the tool represent the sum of the two separator groups. The separators are mostly made of polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE), which are then processed as porous membranes. In some cases, ceramic additives are added. In addition, a coating with aluminum oxide is applied.
In contrast to active materials and electrolyte, production capacities are sometimes calculated not only in tons, but in (million) square meters (m² or Mm²). This unit is also used for the price. Prices are thus developing from just under 3 USD/m² in 2010 to costs of just over 1 USD/m². The price decrease will probably more or less stagnate in the next few years.
Depending on the active material used (and the corresponding energy density achieved), 9-11 m² of separator film are required per kWh of battery capacity produced. In total, the current separator demand amounts to more than 150 kt. At the same time, the market value of separators is about USD 4 billion.
In addition to the dominance of Asian manufacturers, which is again prevalent here, is the company Cellgard from the USA, which had a market share of 3 percent in 2022. In addition, China (55 percent), Japan (30 percent) and Korea (15 percent) again had the largest market shares.