Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Higher prices for components that make up batteries in electric vehicles could slow the growth in demand, the International Monetary Fund said.
Lithium-ion batteries used in newer vehicles are approaching the performance level of internal combustion engines. Lithium is a central component of the batteries used in electric vehicles, as is cobalt. With more of everyday items relying on rechargeable batteries, the cost of those raw materials is on the rise, the IMF found.
"The price of lithium carbonate increased by more than 30 percent in 2017," its report read. "Even more staggering is the upswing in the price of cobalt, which has risen by 150 percent between September 2016 and July 2018."
The IMF's review mirrored sentiments expressed by the International Energy Agency earlier this year. In order to make further advances, the IEA said battery chemistry needs to evolve because of supply issues with elements like nickel, lithium and cobalt, which provide the backbone for the batteries used in electric vehicles.
For cobalt in particular, the IEA said the strain on demand was challenging as more than half of the cobalt produced in the world comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to the U.N. refugee agency, more than 4.5 million people are displaced inside the DRC. More than 75 percent of those displaced by violence in the country are women and children who are providing accounts of widespread rape and murder.
The IMF said the price for cobalt has been influenced historically by volatility along the supply chain. As with the IEA, the fund said new production and mining techniques could keep the price under control.
"Perhaps most important, battery technology is continuing to improve and could bring the surge in cobalt prices to a halt," the IMF's report read. "One of the leading alternatives to the lithium-ion battery concept -- the solid-state battery -- would mean smaller and more-energy-dense batteries that do not need cobalt."
Solid-state batteries, which don't contain liquid electrolytes, are lighter and can charge faster than lithium-ion batteries.
Two million electric vehicles were on the road globally last year, though nearly all of those were in China, the European Union and the United States.