The Ukraine crisis has changed the cost of living and raised inflation rates across the world. The crisis has triggered supply chain disruptions for commodities and prices have hit unprecedented highs. The price of nickel, a key component in batteries for electric vehicles, has skyrocketed since the start of the Ukraine crisis. This will, in turn, raise the price of manufacturing electric vehicles, threatening environmental goals.
The Ukraine Crisis Increases Commodity Prices
The price of commodities has increased greatly since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis. Prices have increased the most since 2009 and such growth threatens energy and metal supplies. The Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index has climbed since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis. Commodity prices have reached high levels in recent weeks, an indication of future deficits. Many countries across the globe depend on Russia’s natural gas, crude oil, wheat, and metals. The severe sanctions on Russia have disrupted the flows of materials and resulted in energy and commodity shortages. The recent shortages of raw materials will change many industrial sectors in Europe and other areas. The Ukraine crisis has had a profound effect on the global metal market with extraordinary short-term consequences. The price of gold, copper, nickel, and palladium racks up more gains as the Ukraine crisis increases demand.
World Needs Russian Nickel
Russia has always supplied a big portion of global requirements for nickel, aluminum, platinum, palladium, and titanium. The geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe have made it difficult to find alternative suppliers, raising metal prices. Nickel is one of the commodities the price of which has rocketed during the Ukraine crisis. Industrial and technological sectors use nickel in steelmaking and in electric vehicle batteries. Russia provides around 20% of the world’s Class 1 nickel and can hold it hostage. There has been a global shortage of high-grade nickel over the past two years. For several big companies, nickel is the biggest concern since they use it in stainless steel. Nickel is also a key component of electric vehicle batteries and its shortage will challenge the production of electric cars. The higher cost of nickel could add to the cost of an electric car.
What Is Nickel?
Alex Fredrick Cronstedt, a Swedish mineralogist and chemist, discovered nickel in 1751. Today, nickel has a wide range of uses from stainless steel and toasters and electric ovens, to rechargeable batteries. This silvery-white metal is used in alloys that are strong enough to withstand extreme temperatures and harsh environments. Industries use nickel-bearing alloys in medical equipment, jet engines, chemical plants, petroleum refineries, power generation facilities, and electric vehicles. Surging nickel prices are bad news for the auto industry’s electric vehicle ambitions, as there are supply concerns. Nickel is a key battery metal in electric vehicles and automakers must increase efforts to find replacements. Battery makers usually have long-term agreements with automakers and the shortages of raw materials will add to the prices. The companies using nickel need to cope with higher prices, so the consumers will suffer the high cost of products.
Fears of Fossil Fuel Transition Slowing Down
International relations are at a low point and the Ukraine crisis is a major blow to global trade. Russia plays a major role in the nickel market and shortages in this area will stagnate car manufacturing. The high prices of electric vehicle batteries have raised fears that the transition away from fossil fuels could slow down. An average electric vehicle battery contains 80 pounds of nickel which makes energy production from renewable energy sources more viable. But the soaring cost of nickel will double the cost of an electric vehicle. Many carmakers may not meet their targets of making electric vehicles by the end of the decade. There is enough nickel for manufacturing industries, but at higher prices. After two years of supply chain disruptions during the Covid pandemic, now the Ukraine crisis has created havoc.
Industries May Replace Nickel
Although analysts expect prices to drop, they will remain higher than what industries can bear. After a surge in nickel prices in recent weeks, the London Metal Exchange has suspended the global nickel market. All-time high nickel prices have forced LME to halt nickel trading for several days. Some industries have decided to buy nickel directly from mining companies. However, there are not enough planning for mining projects and processing facilities to make high-grade nickel. Such type of nickel is produced in Russia and the electric vehicle batteries require this kind of Class 1 nickel. Inflationary pressure may motivate electric vehicle makers to be innovative and make cheaper batteries. Iron-based battery chemistry has two-thirds of the energy packed into a battery cell compared with nickel-based chemistries. Some companies are working on it to boost the energy density of iron-based battery chemistry to replace nickel.
Nickel Has Revolutionised Lives
There are two categories of electric batteries to supply electric power. Primary batteries are disposable and secondary batteries are rechargeable. An electric battery consists of electrochemical cells, and nickel is an essential component for the cells of many battery designs. Nickel-based battery technology has an important role in renewable energy storage systems. With nickel-based batteries, recycling capacity will grow and this is important for environmental reasons. Companies can use nickel in cathodes and anodes of old batteries for new batteries. Nickel rechargeable batteries became prominent in the 1980s. Industries adopted nickel-metal-hydride in power tools and digital cameras. Later, nickel-metal-hydride found its way into other portable devices like smartphones and laptops. Nickel is an important part of batteries for future electric vehicles but the Ukraine crisis is disturbing its market.
The manufacturing industry has vastly suffered from the impacts of Covid-19 over the past two years. But the war between Russia and Ukraine might be a more profound shock for manufacturers and consumers. This geopolitical tension between the two important commodity traders has caused chaos in global markets. The Ukraine crisis has cut the flow of materials as sanctions have been imposed on Russian commodities. Metal prices have surged during recent weeks and caused fears among industries and businesses. Nickel was among the most expensive metals in recent weeks that climbed sharply to record highs. This metal is used in rechargeable and portable batteries and Russia owns high-grade nickel resources. Electric vehicle makers are looking for nickel, an essential component of electric batteries, to meet their environmental targets. Currently, the EV industry is facing a nickel shortage as the Ukraine crisis continues.