In 2017, global consumption of nickel was just over 2.1 million tonnes, two-thirds of which was used by the stainless steel industry. Nickel usage is projected to rise 7.8% this year, and output in the first quarter already increased by 9.5% in an attempt to meet this demand. Nickel’s primary use has always been in stainless steel, which can take almost any grade of nickel and use it in manufacturing. However, with the electric vehicle (EV) boom, nickel demand continues to rise. The catch here is that battery makers require nickel sulphate, which can only be produced from Class I nickel (>99.9%), to meet the required purity for EV batteries. Production of Class I nickel is expected to reach 19,000 tonnes in 2018, but demand is about 3% of the current nickel market, about 65,000 tonnes. Many different institutions have tried to forecast Class I nickel demand increase, with estimates ranging from 200,000 – 700,000 tonnes by 2025. This growth reflects the rise in EV production and the fact that battery makers are looking to change their composition to more nickel and less cobalt. Nickel is currently about 20% of the cost of cobalt, which is enough reason itself to consider changing the battery composition. This demand forecasts should be enough to cause a push for the use of more renewable technologies and ways to reuse and recycle the nickel already in circulation. It takes time for new primary nickel production to come on line, but recovering it from old EV batteries or industrial parts may help make up the shortfall in the meantime and promote a circular economy.
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