The energy revolution is here to stay, and electric vehicles (EVs) have become part of the mainstream narrative.
Despite geopolitical tensions and uncertainty, the shift toward green energy is gathering momentum, with the US and Europe adding more incentives to accelerate this transition. Increasing sales of EVs are good news for battery metals investors, as EVs are the main price drivers for commodities such as lithium and cobalt — key components in the cathodes of EV batteries.
1. Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA)
Market cap: US$813.3 billion; current share price: US$256.24
First on the list is of course EV maker Tesla, which has brought significant attention to the EV narrative. Its story starts in 2003, when it was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Elon Musk invested in the company in 2004, becoming the largest shareholder, and eventually became its CEO in 2008.
A well-known story for battery metals investors, the company made headlines in 2014 when it broke ground at its first gigafactory in Nevada ― an unthinkable proposition at the time. In partnership with Panasonic (TSE:6752,OTC Pink:PCRFF), the manufacturing facility has produced batteries with nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) cathodes — different from most of Tesla’s competitors, which use a nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) mix.
More recently, Tesla has opened a gigafactory in China, where it joined forces with China’s largest battery maker, CATL (SZSE:300750), to develop batteries for its Model 3. South Korea’s LG Energy Solutions (KRX:373220) is also working on supplying Tesla with batteries using nickel-manganese-cobalt-aluminum (NMCA) cathodes.
For its standard-range vehicles, Tesla said in 2021 that it was changing the battery chemistry it uses to lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) cathodes, which are cobalt- and nickel-free.
2. BYD (HKEX:1211)
Market cap: US$106.61 billion; current share price: US$34.48
Leading Chinese EV maker BYD was founded in 1995 and is only behind Tesla when it comes to global sales of EVs — although as of 2023 it was not far from taking the lead.
BYD is also the leading producer of multiple kinds of rechargeable batteries: nickel-metal hydride batteries, lithium-ion batteries and NCM batteries. BYD owns the complete supply chain layout, from mineral battery cells to battery packs.
Backed by Warren Buffet, in 2020 BYD officially launched its Blade battery, a less bulky LFP battery. The following year, the company announced that it was starting to use LFP batteries for all of its pure electric models. As of mid-2022, BYD was supplying Tesla with its Blade battery, which is being used for Model Ys built in Germany. In 2023, the company began working on using sodium-ion batteries — this battery type is expected to be seen in 9 percent of global EV sales by 2033, according to Fastmarkets.
3. Li Auto (NASDAQ:LI)
Market cap: US$42.5 billion; current share price: US$43.41
Li Auto bills itself as a pioneer in successfully commercializing extended-range EVs in China. The company started volume production of its first model, Li ONE, in November 2019, and launched its initial public offering in July 2020. In 2022, the company ranked first in both China’s full-size and large SUV markets.
One of the main differences between Li Auto and the other companies on this list is that Li Auto’s models allow battery pack charging with electricity or gas. Li Auto calls this design extended-range EV technology. By 2025, the company wants its lineup to include one flagship model, five extended-range electric models and five high-voltage pure electric models.
Li Auto has battery supply agreements with CATL, and announced in February of this year that it had been selected to work with Sunwoda Electronic (SZSE:300207) and Svolt Energy Technology.
4. Rivian (NASDAQ:RIVN)
Market cap: US$24.26 billion; current share price: US$25.82
Founded in 2009, Rivian designs, develops and manufactures category-defining EVs and accessories and sells them directly to customers in the consumer and commercial markets.
Rivian, which is majority owned by Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and also backed by Ford (NYSE:F), went public in 2021. The carmaker announced plans to use cells made with LFP chemistries for its standard-level vehicles last year, and earlier this year announced it plans to switch its entire lineup to this type of battery. The company expects LFP-powered passenger vehicles to be available later in 2023. South Korea’s Samsung SDI (KRX:006400) is Rivian’s current battery supplier, but the company has plans to build its own battery cells in the future.
5. NIO (NYSE:NIO)
Market cap: US$23.31 billion; current share price: US$14.35
Founded in 2014, Chinese EV maker Nio designs, jointly manufactures and sells smart and connected premium EVs.
Nio’s strategy includes its battery-as-a-service endeavor, a subscription purchasing model where buyers lease vehicle batteries. The company states that idea behind this move is to reduce vehicle costs. The service is run by the Battery Asset Company, with Nio and leading battery maker CATL owning a stake. CATL is already Nio’s sole battery supplier.
In September 2021, the company had introduced a standard-range hybrid-cell battery that combines NCM and LFP cells. Looking ahead, the carmaker is said to have plans to use a combination of self-produced and externally sourced batteries in the long run. The company is also gearing up to offer the world’s longest-range solid-state battery on a rental basis.
6. XPeng (NYSE:XPEV)
Market cap: US$18.24 billion; current share price: US$18.82
Another Chinese EV maker focused on the smart EV market, Xpeng’s main manufacturing plant is located in Guangdong province.
CATL used to be XPeng’s primary battery supplier, but the carmaker has diversified its battery suppliers. The carmaker has chosen to work with Sunwoda, a smaller Chinese battery maker, to develop a fast-charging battery for the G9. XPeng also counts CALB (HKEX:3931) and EVE Energy (SZSE:300014) as battery suppliers.
Early in 2021, XPeng launched three new vehicle versions powered by LFP batteries for the Chinese market. Its long-range versions use NCM batteries.
7. Lucid (NASDAQ:LCID)
Market cap: US$12.72 billion; current share price: US$6.93
Headquartered in California, Lucid was founded in 2007 and produces luxury electric cars. The company’s first car, Lucid Air, is a state-of-the-art luxury sedan that is being produced at its factory in Casa Grande, Arizona.
Lucid will use Panasonic batteries in its long-range Lucid Air and its Gravity SUV, which will begin production in 2024, although details of the chemistry used are yet to be known. Previously, Lucid had an agreement with LG Chem (OTC Pink:LGCLF,KRX:003550), which supplied cylindrical batteries for the US EV maker’s standard Lucid Air models starting in H2 2020 and extending until 2023.
8. Nikola (NASDAQ:NKLA)
Market cap: US$2.16 billion; current share price: US$3.01
Nikola is a ‘designer and manufacturer of zero-emission battery-electric and hydrogen-electric vehicles, EV drivetrains, vehicle components, energy storage systems and hydrogen station infrastructure,’ according to the company. Founded in 2015, Nikola went public in June 2020 after merging with VectoIQ, a special purpose acquisition firm founded by former GM (NYSE:GM) Vice Chairman Steve Grisky.
Arizona-based Nikola set a goal of producing at least 300 EVs in 2022, but failed to hit that metric. As pressures to deliver vehicles continue to mount, Nikola has created a new unit to manage the production and distribution of hydrogen fuel. The company believes this will allow it to focus on its EV business.
Nikola currently sources batteries from LG Energy Solutions, and in 2022 signed a deal with Proterra (NASDAQ:PTRA), another EV maker, to use Proterra’s battery packs in Nikola’s electric trucks. Also in 2022, Nikola acquired battery module and pack manufacturer Romeo Power, securing control of critical battery pack engineering and production processes. However, in 2023’s third quarter, Nikola said it will start liquidating the assets of the battery maker it purchased a year ago, and the current CEO stepped down.
9. Fisker (NYSE:FSR)
Market cap: US$2.12 billion; current share price: US$6.18
California-based Fisker, which went public in 2020, kicked off commercial production of its Ocean SUV model in November 2022.
Fisker has a deal with top battery manufacturer CATL, which will supply small LFP and large NCM advanced battery packs for the Fisker Ocean SUV. The deal will last until 2025 and has an initial battery capacity of over 5 gigawatt hours annually. This past May, the EV maker teamed up with battery-swapping technology provider Ample to provide battery-swappable EVs for its fleet.
10. Proterra (NASDAQ:PTRA)
Market cap: US$396.49 million; current share price: US$1.75
Proterra designs and manufactures zero-emission electric transit vehicles and EV technology solutions for commercial applications. In 2021, Proterra became a public company through a merger with special purpose acquisition company ArcLight Clean Transition.
With facilities in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and South Carolina, Proterra was founded in 2004 and has a long-term agreement with LG Energy Solution for US-manufactured EV battery cells. Proterra’s current battery platform uses NCM 811 lithium-ion cylindrical cells. LG Energy Solutions is working on a new, high-nickel NCMA chemistry, and currently supplies batteries to Tesla, Ford and Hyundai Motor (OTC Pink:HYMTF,KRX:005380), among others.
Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.