China has become the global largest country in application of new energy vehicles (NEVs) and installed capacity of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). However, the contradiction between the demand and supply of nickel used as the typical critical resource for manufacturing LIBs, is ever-increasing aggravated especially under the tendency of cobalt-free nickel-rich. This research, hereby, predicts the nickel recycling potential from end-of-life NEVs under three sales growth scenarios by linear regression and Weibull distribution, and investigates the role of recovered nickel during closing nickel loop quantitatively. It is predicted that China's NEVs sales can achieve approximately 3800 thousand units, and the quantities of end-of-life NEVs can reach 2300 thousand units under the higher growth rate (HGR) in 2030. If the spent nickel-bearing batteries (NBBs) can be fully recycled, 44.5 Mt of nickel can be recovered, which will account for nearly one third of the total demand for manufacturing NBBs. The results indicate that the recovered nickel from spent NBBs can play a vital role during closing nickel loop in the industry of NEVs in China.