Shift to Mined vs. Man-Made Graphite Raises Shortage Risk for EVs

Natural graphite is greener than synthetic, leading auto makers to turn to mines for the mineral

Mining companies are ramping up supplies of critical minerals for rechargeable batteries such as lithium, cobalt and nickel. Graphite, a key battery component, has largely been overlooked.

That is about to change. Some of the world’s biggest auto and battery makers and the U.S. government are racing to secure graphite supplies amid looming signs of shortages of the mineral suitable for batteries. So far graphite prices haven’t reflected the tight supply.

“Graphite always seems to be the forgotten battery material, yet it’s in half the battery,” said Brent Nykoliation, executive vice president of NextSource Materials Inc., which is developing a graphite project in Madagascar. “It’s the largest raw material in the battery.”

Graphite is unusual among materials seen as crucial for the energy transition because it can be man-made as well as mined. Most lithium-ion batteries use synthetic graphite, which is produced from a petroleum byproduct, mostly in China.

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