Graphite’s Role for lithium ion batteries and electric vehicles

Driven by demand for green technology, graphite is experiencing a surge as one of the hottest commodities in the mining world

 In downtown Vancouver, BC this afternoon the first Graphite Express-Conference is set to take place in the Hotel Vancouver in the BC Ballroon. This micro-conference spans only 2 hours from 2-4pm, promising to deliver the message of why we need to know more about graphite within a compact and efficient format. Hosted by, and featuring keynote speaker Chris Berry of House-Mountain Partners, the conference will also give attendees to meet the people behind companies within the graphite sector, including:

Zimtu Capital Corp. CA:ZC +3.57% (us:ZTMUF)

Lomiko Metals CA:LMR +8.70% (us:LMRMF)

Standard Graphite CA:SGH +3.39% (us:DARDF)

Cedar Mountain Exploration CA:CED +8.70% (us:CDRMF)

Focus Metals CA:FMS +9.62% (us:FCSMF)

Strike Graphite CA:SRK +8.77% (us:SRKZF)

Northern Graphite CA:NGC +4.50% (us:NGPHF)

Solace Resources CA:SOR +7.14% (us:IAXFF)

When looking at the increased demand for clean technology, graphite very quickly stands out as a commodity that brings a backbone for much of the newer developments seen in manufacturing these "green" goods. With most electric and hybrid vehicles being powered by lithium-ion batteries, what many don’t realize is the importance of graphite in the battery’s construction. While lithium is obviously an integral part of the battery, 10-20x the amount of graphite is needed than lithium within the batteries, and close to 20-30x is needed during the construction of the battery due to the process of construction. And should a new type of fuel cell be developed other than lithium-ion, it can be expected that graphite will be included in the new design due to its strength, durability and lightweight nature.

Demand is rising for graphite to a point that a 2011 estimated usage of graphite totaled 1.1 million tonnes per year. This quantity far outpaces demand for other green related metals such as molybdenum, rare earths and lithium. However, much like rare earths, graphite is primarily mined in China, with the Chinese controlling over 70% of the graphite market.

There are three types of graphite that can be found in the world, flake, amorphous and lump/vein. The first two types (flake and amorphous) are typically associated with industry, with flake being the more rare and effective for Li-Ion batteries, fuel cells and other green tech, and amorphous being the more abundant and useful as a steel reinforcement. Of the two, flake is the most often desired, and the most limited in supply. What consumers of graphite look for is graphite of higher carbon purity and large flake sizes. Of the total market for graphite, approximately 40% is of the flake variety and the remaining 60% is amorphous.

There are plenty of other uses for graphite other than just in Li-Ion batteries, but with the push towards greener technologies, the battery is the easiest example to illustrate the importance of graphite for the future. To gain a better understanding of the logistics involved, and to meet the people behind the sector, be sure to drop by the Graphite-Express Conference this afternoon in Vancouver, where attendance is free.