Lithium price is diving as EV metals battle a double whammy

on Mar 24, 2023
  • Lithium and nickel prices have dived in the past few months.
  • There are concerns about high supply in the industry.
  • Demand growth for electric vehicles is expected to drop this year.

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Lithium price is nosediving after being one of the top-performing metals in the past few years. Its price has plunged by more than 50% in the past three months and is now sitting at the lowest point since January 2022. Data by TradingEconomics shows that the price of lithium carbonate was trading at 284,5000 CNY per ton, down from last year’s high of 590,608 CNY.

Demand and supply concerns

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Lithium and nickel should be doing well as the world continues to embrace electric vehicles. However, the situation is not doing well. As I wrote in this article on Wednesday, nickel prices have continued to nosedive. 

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There are two main reasons why lithium prices are crashing. First, there is the ongoing fear that the industry is now getting oversupplied following several years of investments. Countries like Chile, Australia, and Argentina have ramped up production to meet the rising demand.

At the same time, as I wrote in the article on Zimbabwe dollar, the country has seen its lithium stockpiles jump to more than 2 million. This jump happened after the country announced a ban of lithium ore exports in a bid to incentivize local companies. As such, there are fears that this ore will come to the market soon. In a note, an analyst said:

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“Supply is coming on stream faster than you can say ‘boo’. Demand remains strong, but prices have been unsustainable for some time now.”

Lithium price
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Lithium price chart

Lithium demand easing

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The other key issue is that EV demand seems to be easing. For example, companies like Tesla and Nio have been forced to slash prices several times. The first rule in economics is that companies never lower prices in a period of elevated demand. In a note, an analyst told Bloomberg that:

“Lithium carbonate prices saw a greater rate of decline as greater supply growth outlook for the year coincides with weaker demand sentiment.”

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Worse, many EV companies are not doing well either. On Thursday, Ford said that its EV business lost over $3 billion in 2022. Rivian, the fast-growing EV company, lost over $6 billion during the year while Lucid lost over $2.6 billion

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