A Look At The Lithium Economy And Its Impact On Electric Vehicles

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Modern discourse all around climate change and its impact has centered around a range of topics. Most of these discussions are about effective ways to produce energy without hurting the planet. This is a task much easier said than done. Interestingly, while energy moves away from fossil fuels, it is rarely without natural resources.

Nuclear energy relies on hydrogen, uranium, maybe even plutonium. Clean energy tends to rely on the resources the earth naturally supplies, wind and air. It is time to update the conversation with a powerful element, lithium which is frequently utilized in the production of lithium-ion batteries and the rollout of electric cars.

What Exactly is Lithium and What are its Uses

Lithium is a silver – white colored metal that is softer than most metals. It is both highly flammable and reactive. This makes it especially useful in much energy production such as Lithium-ion batteries. It is also used for lubricating greases, glass, and ceramics. Still other uses of Lithium include metallurgy, nuclear fusion applications, and even lithium carbonate, which is utilized for treating bipolar disorder.

The Rise of the Use of Lithium

Due to all of these uses, especially energy uses, lithium is in significant demand. Lithium is expected to rise from the current need of approximately 500,000 metric tons of LCE (Lithium carbonate equivalent) in 2021 all the way up to between 3 and 4 million tons of LCE by the year 2030.

Electric energy may be the most interesting of the bunch, it relies, in large part, on lithium. More specifically, electric energy heavily uses batteries, and lithium powers Lithium-ion batteries as stated above.. This is the elemental cost of an electric car, and one that is becoming extremely important. Lithium, unlike other resources, is limited, and pretty heavily limited at that.

Where Can Lithium be Found in the World?

With the rising demand of lithium, where will we be able to pull these resources from in the world? Chile has the largest lithium reserves, sitting at 92 million metric tons. Australia, however, is the world’s largest lithium producer. Other established lithium producing nations include China and Argentina.

Interestingly, there are a larger number of countries that are emerging with recently mapped resources and reserves. These countries include the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Russia,, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia.

There is quite the imbalance between nations in terms of their control over lithium. The United States, for instance, only controls 3.6% of global lithium reserves. in sharp contrast to this, China’s lion’s share of lithium at a whopping 43.7% of the world puts China in a dominant position.

Why is Lithium in Such High Demand?

While currently there is no near shortage in lithium and the near future, that may change as the demand for lithium rapidly rises. One electric car requires eight kilograms of lithium. This number is nothing to scoff at when two billion electric cars would be needed to reach net zero energy.

This number is really nothing to laugh at when the current usable supply of lithium would produce only 2.5 billion cars. And while lithium can be recovered from batteries and its other common uses. This amounts to very low rates of secondary use, under 10 percent typically.

This is why the discussion around lithium is one incredibly important aspect of the discussion on energy. The move away from fossil fuels is a move away from destroying the world’s natural resources.

Although electric cars just move that resource from one source to another. Electric cars aren’t going anywhere, in fact they’re going to become much more common. Yet their elemental cost can never be forgotten or go unconsidered. The earth only has so much to offer, it cannot go to waste.

Bringing it all Together

When it comes to the future of energy, the future of the lithium economy is looking bright. Learn more about the uses of lithium and where it is currently being mined from in the visual deep dive below, courtesy of Grounded Lithium:

Lithium In The Energy Economy