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In depth: How spiking lithium prices threaten China's EV market

Argentina, Bolivia and Chile pose particular challenge with OPEC-type plans

In 2021, EVs made up 15.7% of the new car market in China, figures from China Passenger Car Association show.   © Reuters

Lithium, the key ingredient in batteries, had a bumper year in 2021, as electric vehicle sales boomed globally, with China alone shifting 3.5 million units, double its 2020 total.

With new tail winds from a commodities rally, driven largely by the war in Ukraine, the red-hot market for battery-grade lithium carbonate shows no sign of easing. The average spot price of the chemical element has nearly doubled in the past three months after shooting up 434% last year. Lithium carbonate was trading at an average price of 502,000 yuan ($79,120) per ton as of Monday, data from metal research firm Shanghai Metals Market show.

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