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Next EV hurdle: Lithium bid up 140% after Elon Musk's 'Insane Levels' call

Pilbara Minerals Ltd.’s auction of spodumene concentrate -- a partly-processed form of lithium -- attracted a top bid of $5,650 a ton on Wednesday for a cargo of 5,000 tons. That compares with $2,350 at the previous sale in late October on the Australian miner’s Battery Metal Exchange.

April 28, 2022 / 01:16 PM IST
FILE PHOTO: A Panasonic Corp's lithium-ion battery, which is part of Tesla Motor Inc's Model S and Model X battery packs, is pictured with the Tesla Motors logo during a photo opportunity at the Panasonic Center in Tokyo, Japan, November 19, 2013.  REUTERS/Yuya Shino/File Photo - RTX2VS18

FILE PHOTO: A Panasonic Corp's lithium-ion battery, which is part of Tesla Motor Inc's Model S and Model X battery packs, is pictured with the Tesla Motors logo during a photo opportunity at the Panasonic Center in Tokyo, Japan, November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/File Photo - RTX2VS18

The highest bid for lithium at an online sale surged by 140% in just six months, an indication the stampede for supplies of the main ingredient used in electric vehicle batteries could get even more intense.

Pilbara Minerals Ltd.’s auction of spodumene concentrate -- a partly-processed form of lithium -- attracted a top bid of $5,650 a ton on Wednesday for a cargo of 5,000 tons. That compares with $2,350 at the previous sale in late October on the Australian miner’s Battery Metal Exchange.

The surging prices are unnerving battery makers and EV firms. Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said this month that lithium had gone to “insane levels” and is the “fundamental limiting factor” for EV adoption, adding the car giant might consider mining or refining it directly. Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., the world’s largest battery maker, said last week it had won exploration rights for a lithium clay deposit in China.

“The pricing received on the BMX sales trading platform is indicative of the critical shortage that exists in respect of lithium raw material supply,” Pilbara Minerals said in a statement. It’s the company’s fourth online spodumene sale.