Chinese EV companies eye Argentina’s lithium reserves
Published: May 17, 2021 11:46 PM
A worker operates on a production line at a lithium battery factory in Tangshan, north China's Hebei Province, Nov. 29, 2020. Lithium battery production has recently become a leading industrial sector in Lubei District of Tangshan. It is estimated that local manufacturers turn out 780 million yuan (about 118 million U.S. dollars) worth of lithium batteries every year. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)

Photo: Xinhua

Chinese lithium producer Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium said in an announcement on Monday it is evaluating the possibility of setting up a battery assembly plant in Jujuy Province, Argentina. Chinese electric vehicle (EV) firms have been eyeing the Latin American country as it has rich reserves of lithium, as well as promising market potential.

Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium and the Argentine government will study the possibility of establishing a battery factory, and will assess investment opportunities in the exploration of mineral resources projects, the announcement said.

It came shortly after Jiangsu Jiankang Automobile’s decision to produce EVs and lithium batteries in Argentina, which, together with Bolivia and Chile, holds the world’s largest proven reserves of lithium.

According to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government of Argentina in February, it plans to jointly develop new automotive technologies with Argentina and bring renewable energy automotive products into the Argentine market.

China is one of world’s largest consumers of lithium, partly because of its booming EV market and clean energy drive. Both factors provide great potential for lithium cooperation between the two countries, experts said.

China has set the goal to hit peak emissions before 2030 and for carbon neutrality by 2060. In April, 193,000 electric passenger cars were sold, up 205.6 percent year-on-year, according to the China Passenger Car Association.
“Under China’s carbon emission target, the demand for lithium is widely expected to continue to increase and some EV battery manufacturers are already investing and expanding overseas to find resources,” Zheng Jiatu, deputy managing director of the China Electric Vehicle Charging Technology and Industry Alliance, told the Global Times Monday.

Argentina is one of the top 20 car markets in the world, but the car ownership per 1,000 people is low, which creates large potential for urban electric vehicles, Feng Shiming, a car analyst, told the Global Times Monday.

“With their price advantage and manufacturing experience, Chinese carmakers have an opportunity to cut into the local market. However, it should be noted that Argentina is still in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and faces the risk of lockdown, which brings uncertainty for investment,” he said.

At present, China is Argentina’s second-largest trading partner and an important partner in investment and financing cooperation. According to data from the National Bureau of statistics of Argentina, from 2003 to 2020, the bilateral trade volume between Argentina and China nearly quadrupled from $3.2 billion to $14 billion.

“The cooperation between China and Argentina on EVs and lithium batteries creates an opportunity and a new mode for both counties to develop integrated cooperation and move up the manufacturing value-chain,” Dong Jingsheng, deputy director of Peking University's Latin America Research Center, told the Global Times on Monday.

Global Times 

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