Tim Karimov, President and co-founder of OneCharge, spoke recently about the impact of metal prices on the forklift industry. Tim’s presentation covered a range of topics, from the metals used in batteries to recycling and the trends in electrification in the material handling equipment (MHE) industry.
The metals that go into industrial batteries include cobalt, manganese, iron, nickel, aluminum, lithium, and copper. Of these, cobalt, nickel, and lithium are the most battery-specific and are the ones most impacted by price changes. The 2022 price increase has primarily affected lithium prices.
Global demand for lithium is expected to increase dramatically, with most of the growth coming from the passenger vehicle and commercial transportation sectors. The material handling market is relatively small in comparison, and so it will bear the brunt of whatever happens in the larger market.
The cost of lithium-ion battery packs has been coming down in recent years, and they are now cost-competitive for the forklift industry. However, there was a little uptick in 2022, and Tim believes that this is the structural bottom of the battery pack price, given current technologies.
The price increase in 2022 was driven by different metals used in batteries, and this trend is likely to continue. Copper, lithium, and aluminum consumption are all expected to grow dramatically in the next 8–10 years. This increase in demand is being driven by the growth of electric vehicles and the trend towards electrification in the MHE industry.
Recycling is another important aspect of the industry, and Tim shared some numbers on how recycling affects the market. While recycling rates are still relatively low, they are expected to increase in the coming years as more batteries reach the end of their lives.
In conclusion, the forklift industry is affected by the wider trends in the battery and metals markets. The price of lithium-ion batteries has come down in recent years, but the increase in metal prices in 2022 is a reminder that this trend may not continue indefinitely. With the growth of electric vehicles and electrification in the MHE industry, demand for metals is set to increase dramatically, and recycling will become increasingly important. The forklift industry is likely to continue to be impacted by these wider trends in the years to come.