Chinese lithium prices hit records as EV sales take off; nickel at 7-year high

Chinese lithium carbonate prices soared in 2021, due to a surge in demand for lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries in the country, according to the end-of-year analysis by Benchmark Minerals Intelligence.

Transacted prices in China began to breach the RMB 200,000/tonne mark in November—a historical milestone for lithium pricing. Battery-grade lithium carbonate ended the year at an average price of RMB 250,000/tonne ($39,250), well above any previous records.

Benchmark added that despite the rise of LFP batteries, nickel prices hit a seven-year high in 2021 as a series of supply curtailments, in tandem with a stronger-than-expected recovery in stainless-steel production and robust growth in the battery sector pushed the market into a deficit.

Cobalt prices also hit a three-year high during the year. Finally, Benchmark said, graphite prices are starting to reflect the growth in demand for battery anodes.