Spot prices for graphite electrodes have spiked over 300 percent between January and November 2017, hitting up to a whopping $35,000 per tonne as graphite supplies dry up for a metal that is of crucial importance to the lithium batteries that form the backbone of the electric car boom. And the demand for tech-grade graphite is expected to increase 200% in less than three years, and 300% by 2025, and the United States, the largest consumer of graphite, doesn’t even mine any.
But it might, soon.
A little-known company called Global Li-Ion Graphite Corporation has an option to buy the only property with a good shot at containing a graphite deposit within 50 miles of Tesla’s battery gigafactory in Nevada.
The only thing better than lightweight, quick-charging, longer lasting tech-grade graphite that doesn’t overheat, is graphite made in America, right next to a game-changing gigafactory that needs this metal.
The rapidly evolving energy future – packed with electric vehicles, massive energy storage solutions and nanotechnology – requires more tech-grade graphite than it does lithium and cobalt.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said recently: “Our cells should be called Nickel-Graphite, because primarily the cathode is nickel and the anode side is graphite with silicon oxide… [there’s] a little bit of lithium in there, but it’s like the salt on the salad.”
If shortages for lithium and cobalt are looming large, shortages of graphite are even scarier. Most of the world’s graphite was coming from China, but now even China is importing.
And while the next wave is all about graphite, driven by a major surge in EV production and new battery gigafactories, what follows could be even bigger.
What follows is the biggest potential opportunity named graphene – the superman of metals, better known as the strongest material in the world. Graphene – the individual layers of graphite – could make possible everything from artificial hearts and retinas to flexible phones and lightweight aircraft.
For early-in investors seeking to catch one of the biggest waves of the decade, graphene is it. For graphite, the supply shortage is already looming large. For graphene, this is the race to the commercial finish.
Graphite is one of the two mineral forms of carbon-a status it shares with diamonds, and it’s becoming just as precious-across industries.
Right now, it’s the key to our EV future. Lithium-ion batteries have a lithium cathode and a graphite anode, and despite the name, these batteries require 10 to 20 times more graphite than lithium.
In short, it’s a wonder metal that behaves like a metal and conducts electricity, but also acts as a nonmetal and resists high temperatures.
Graphite is present across the auto industry, not just EVs, and it’s a huge factor in the production of steel and glass, and in the processing of iron. It’s a lubricant. It’s a super-strength material used in sports equipment. You can find it in power tools, vacuums, bikes, solar power-even the military uses it.
And when graphite is broken down into graphene, the potential is mind-blowing. Graphene, the strongest material in the world, is at the center of a major global race to commercialization because its uses could define our technological advancement for decades to come.
Graphene sheets, which comprise the layers of graphite, are 10 times lighter and 200 times stronger than steel. It’s the strongest material in the world, and it’s the backbone of nanotechnology. Isolated only in 2004, graphene is the world’s first 2D material.
Graphene is being touted as a key material for the medical world, making new artificial hearts and retinas possible, as well as flexible electronic devices and even aircraft parts.
It can mean clean drinking water for millions of people as graphene membranes aid purification technology and desalination. For energy storage, it could mean yet another revolution, making electric sports cars possible…
Virgin Atlantic president and investor extraordinaire Richard Branson thinks that the entire airline industry will be flying lightweight planes made from graphene in 10 years because they are desperate for lighter fleets that can combat rising fuel prices.