It is non-negotiable that China has developed one of the most disruptive technologies in the past three decades that lead the way towards the future. If you’re a newcomer in the EV space, your reference for electric cars might be Tesla. But if you’ve been following it for some time, you realize that China has over 300 EV startups, out of which around 25 are on the markets, generating cash flow.
And even if Tesla comes to your mind first, think of this – Tesla’s Shanghai factory that was built three years ago produces more cars than the plant in California.
China is the world’s largest market for electric vehicles, with 1.3 million vehicles sold last year, accounting for more than 40% of global sales. CATL, a Chinese battery manufacturer, controls around 30% of the global EV battery market. Darton Commodities, a cobalt specialist, estimates that Chinese refineries delivered 85% of the world’s battery-ready cobalt last year; a mineral that aids lithium-ion battery durability. The majority of cobalt originates from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where Chinese corporations control about 70% of the mining industry.
China Molybdenum Company (CMOC) had announced a $2.5 billion investment for doubling copper and cobalt production earlier this year. Huayou Cobalt is a crucial actor in every stage of the cobalt supply chain, from mines to refineries to battery precursor and cathode manufacture, and owns or has an interest in at least three copper-cobalt mines in the DRC. According to assertions made by Congolese miners, China’s control of the DRC’s copper-cobalt mines comes at a cost.
Companies are beginning to catch up to China’s dominance in Europe as well. According to Darton Commodities, by the end of the decade, the continent would have 28 facilities making lithium-ion cells, with production capacity estimated to expand by 1440 percent from 2020 levels. Companies like Britishvolt in Northumberland and Northvolt in Sweden, as well as Asian corporations coming into Europe, are driving this expansion.
However, according to Andries Gerbens of Darton, European investment in mining and the manufacturing of battery precursor and cathode materials is falling behind. “China will eventually become less dominant. Nonetheless, it will remain a big player” he predicts.