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Rethinking Chinese supply resilience of critical metals in lithium-ion batteries

Yan, Wenyi, Cao, Hongbin, Zhang, Yi, Ning, Pengge, Song, Qingbin, Yang, Jianxin, Sun, Zhi
Journal of cleaner production 2020 v.256 pp. 120719
cobalt, industry, issues and policy, lithium, lithium batteries, quantitative analysis, raw materials, recycling, risk, supply chain, technology, China
With the rapid development of the lithium-ion battery (LIB) industry, the demand for core valuable elements in LIB has increased dramatically. A safe supply of corresponding metals is crucial to ensure the industry’s sustainability. However, quantitative evaluation to reveal the supply risk including criticality of LIBs in China is still not available. In this regard, criticality analysis was carried out to identify the importance of a specific metal in the current LIBs supply chain of raw materials. Subsequently, a comprehensive methodology to evaluate supply sustainability is established in this research by considering the combined effects of material supply, economic fluctuations, and technology innovation in the time frame from 2015 to 2030. An integrated index called Chinese supply resilience is introduced, indicating that a low Chinese supply resilience has a high possibility of supply shortage of the corresponding metal while a high resilience level represents minor supply risk. The results show that insufficient material supply has already induced a severe shortage for lithium (Li) and cobalt (Co). Specifically, Chinese supply resilience of lithium moves from the threshold to the low resilience zone, whereas that for cobalt remains in the low area, both implying a high risk of supply shortage. Furthermore, three appropriate mitigation measures, that is, recycling of spent LIBs, substitution of raw materials, and an increase in domestic raw materials production are considered. Recycling demonstrates the most effective solution to alleviate the potential supply risk of corresponding materials. With this research, it may promote management efficiency on end-of-life LIBs for policy makers.