Exploring the Role of Graphite in the Electric Vehicle Revolution

An Electric Vehicle

Lithium is arguably the best-known champion of the “green” electric vehicle revolution. Most electric cars run on lithium-ion batteries, after all. But did you know that graphite is also a crucial component in lithium-ion batteries? In fact, these rechargeable batteries require more graphite than lithium.

CEO of Tesla Motors Elon Musk even said that a more apt name for lithium-ion batteries would be nickel-graphite. Primarily, the cathode of these batteries is nickel, while the anode is graphite with silicon oxide and a little bit of lithium. Musk further explained that the amount of lithium components in these batteries is comparable to the amount of salt on salad.

Why Graphite?

Graphite is a key component in lithium-ion batteries mainly because of its versatility. Despite being non-metal, graphite’s flexibility and electrical conductivity make it suitable for electric vehicles.

Not all graphite can be used as anodes in rechargeable batteries, though. Of the most common types of graphite, the large flake is the correct grade graphite required in lithium-ion battery development.

Often found in metamorphic rocks like limestone, large-flake graphite is mined either through open-pit methods or underground mining in various places in China, Brazil, and India. There could be other potential sources for this material, such as Berkwood’s Lac Guéret project in Quebec.

What’s the Future of Graphite?

No matter where it comes from, large-flake graphite attracts significant market interest, impacting graphite prices globally. To date, it is the only the graphite material with size and components that suit the requirements of the lithium-ion battery anode.

With Tesla’s lithium-ion battery gigafactory in Nevada and other megafactories expected to compete with Tesla by 2020, the demand for flake graphite is projected to rise in the coming years. This can be a good sign to the continuous success of the electric revolution — and the global shift away from fossil fuels.