Worldwide demand for lithium metal is projected to grow 8.8 percent annually through 2019 to 50,500 metric tons, according to Freedonia. Torrid advances in the rechargeable battery market will underpin increases, driven by rapidly expanding use of Li-Ion batteries in hybrid and electric vehicles, energy storage systems, and high-drain portable electronics. Heightened production of primary lithium batteries will also contribute to overall market gains, as improving incomes in emerging economies stimulate purchases of better performing batteries. Other major markets for lithium, including glass and ceramics, lubricating grease and metallurgy, are forecast to post relatively moderate annual gains through 2019. The lubricating grease segment will boast the best performance of these markets, spurred by the production of lithium-based greases for use in industrial and transportation equipment.
Demand for lithium will also increase at a strong pace in the smaller aluminum alloy market, where lithium is utilized to reduce weight and improve the strength of alloys.
China dominates the world lithium market, accounting for over one-third of global demand in 2014. The country’s massive output of goods manufactured with lithium, including batteries, glass, grease, air conditioning equipment, and synthetic rubber, stimulates intensive lithium consumption. China is expected to register the strongest yearly increases in lithium demand of any major market, through 2019, boosted by nearly three-fold expansion in the local rechargeable battery segment. Other major suppliers of Li-Ion batteries, including South Korea and Japan, are also projected to register robust increases in lithium demand through 2019. Strong market gains in India will be driven by ongoing expansion in the country’s manufacturing sector, including in the ceramics, glass, machinery and metal casting industries.