Producers of battery metals and specialist chemicals for electric vehicles are outpacing carmakers like Tesla in the stock market as prices of key commodities climb due to tight supply and wider adoption of zero-emission vehicles.

Pilbara Minerals, a Perth-based supplier of lithium raw materials, jumped more than 210 per cent this year to Thursday’s close, while Ecopro BM and L&F, both South Korea-based producers of cathode active materials, have risen more than 200 per cent. The companies lead advances on the Bloomberg Electric Vehicles Total Return Index, which tracks 69 businesses including automakers and technology developers worth more than a combined $US2 trillion ($2.8 trillion).

“It’s proven to be the case that the raw materials are scarce, and pretty quickly the margin has been pushed upstream,” said Pilbara’s Chief Executive Officer Ken Brinsden.

The mining company, which has supply deals with firms including battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology, slashed output in mid-2019 as prices cratered, and has since rebounded on lithium’s revival, expanding operations and acquiring a rival producer’s project.

Battery production capacity is being added faster than supply chains can grow, leading to severe deficits of some components, and shortages of materials like copper foil. With demand so strong, miners and chemicals producers have been able to hike prices and swell profits.

“Investors are paying more attention to components and metals suppliers as they look for hidden gems along the battery supply chain,” said Horace Chan, a Hong Kong-based chemicals analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

L&F, which supplies battery makers including LG Energy Solution and SK On, expects earnings to rise in 2022 and plans to increase annual production capacity to as much as 200,000 tons in 2025 from 40,000 tonnes this year, CEO Patrick Choi said in an interview. Cathodes, typically the most expensive part of a lithium-ion cell, are one of four major components in every battery, alongside the anode material, electrolyte and separator.

Analysts forecast L&F’s sales to triple to 1 trillion won ($1.2 trillion) this year. For 2022, sales will be at least 2 trillion won, Choi said.

Lynas Rare Earths, an ASX-listed producer of rare earths with a plant in Malaysia, is another top performer on the Bloomberg index, rising about 132 per cent. Tesla has advanced about 32 per cent this year.

Battery factories can be proposed and constructed within about 18 months, whereas mines can typically take 7 years or longer to bring online, indicating that supply of raw materials is likely to remain constrained and prices will stay high, Pilbara’s Brinsden said.

“There is likely to be more pain and heartache. The supply can’t respond as quickly as people assume and that’s happening at the same time as demand is ballooning,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a quick fix for the industry.”

Extracted in full from: Aussie electric car suppliers overtake Tesla with 200 per cent returns (