The price of cobalt-60 has plummeted and the price of silicon has doubled over the last two years, thanks to the rising price of nickel.
But the price for cobalt is still less than a third of its peak price in 2006, which helped fuel the growth of nickel-based batteries in the U, a market that accounts for nearly half of the U’s electric-vehicle market.
And the price decline could hurt the U and its competitiveness, according to a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which published the study Thursday.
The report looked at two cobalt battery options, one made by General Motors, and one made from nickel-manganese oxide (NMO), which was used in battery technology until 2013.
Both have a similar power output, about 2 kilowatts per kilogram, but NMO battery uses a nickel-oxide alloy.
If the price is low enough, the NMO option could save U.s. companies about $2.6 billion annually in operating costs, according the Carnegie report.
“There is no doubt that the lower cost of nickel is a competitive advantage for U. S. companies,” said Peter DeWitt, director of Carnegie’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing.
“If they can get to that lower price point, it will mean lower capital spending and lower operating costs.
And that is a huge competitive advantage.”
The report did not look at how the prices would affect the industry.
The U.N. International Energy Agency, an independent organization, predicts that a nickel oxide battery will cost about $1,200 per kilowatt hour, or about $5.75 per kiloton, while a cobalt oxide battery, which uses nickel-containing nickel, will cost $4,000 per kiloowatt-hour, or $12.25 per kilotons.
Batteries with cobalt in them are cheaper than nickel oxide, but costlier than the Nmo batteries.
The difference is not enough to change the U.’s competitiveness, said John Jablonski, president of the New York-based advocacy group American Chemistry Council.
The NMO batteries are about three times as expensive as the cobalt options, according a U.K.-based battery researcher.
But NMO is cheaper than cobalt, which has been cheaper than zinc for decades.
“There’s a lot of competition, and that is where the competitive advantage of nickel in this market is,” said James Cairns, director at Carnegie.
“The nickel-oxygen battery is very similar in all the ways.”
The Carnegie report notes that the nickel-copper battery market is also undergoing a transition.
Last year, the U.-China Economic and Security Review Committee, an intergovernmental body, said China will no longer produce nickel-iron batteries, and a second report from the Chinese government last month said China plans to phase out the production of nickel metal oxides.NMO battery prices are expected to increase by about 50 percent by 2025, with prices in the $10,000 to $12,000 range, according TOEIC data.
A $10 million NMO cost could save a U.-based company about $10.6 million annually in capital spending, the report said.
The report said nickel-nickel batteries could make up the majority of the market for electric vehicles in 20 years, and the transition to them could help the U-S.
become a global leader in electric vehicle production.