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Insufficient Lithium supply inhibits mainstreaming the electric car

With everything from the cellphone in your pocket to that advanced long-lived lithium-ion battery installed in that new 4-motor drone you surprised the wife with last Christmas, a very limited world-wide supply of the mined, rare earth element Lithium, may be the greatest obstacle in mainstreaming the electric car.

Without Lithium, we don’t have enough battery manufacturing capacity to meet projected public demand. Read one researches take on how to increase the lithium hoard.

Tofu on the grill, an electric car in every garage
On a recent Honda hybrid field trip to Davis, California, a vegetable-feed, zero environmental impact, green car world, of shared electric vehicular transportation came to mind, as I pondered the self sustaining possibilities exhibited through Honda’s Davis House Project. After all, I’d lived off the public utility grid for a decade or two, why not take “green” living to the next level?

A solar charged BEV in every garage, drought resistant yard landscaping and recycled gray water to sustain it. One of the many challenges encountered along the path to off-the-grid self sustainability, was a -10% charge capacity rate (per year) of my lead-cell Trojan storage batteries. In practice, I’d lose no less than 10% of my “ charge density” per year, leading to a very expensive replacement of my storage battery bank.

The same challenge that effectively held long-range electric car development back for decades, would be corrected through advanced battery development. Lithium is key to what’s referred to in battery jargon as “charge density,” the same key condition that keeps your latest 4-blade copter drone in the air for minutes, as opposed to seconds between charge cycles. Thanks to Lithium, a smaller battery module retains greater charge density, resulting in a greater driving range between charge cycles, and longer battery life. I take the all new 2017 Chevy Bolt out for a drive.

Here's the problem:There’s simply not enough Lithium in the world (currently) to meet projected demand

Tesla’s projected 500,000 car per year manufacturing goal will consume all the world’s Lithium supply, that’s one manufacturer. With Chevrolet, Hyundai, Honda, Mercedes Benz, Toyota, and all major auto manufacturers embracing battery electric, or hybrid car and SUV development, the lynch-pin in mainstream production and marketing of affordable, electrification, may in practice be the main component required in its battery module manufacturing, Lithium.


RANDALL SOUZA (not verified)    April 15, 2017 - 12:18AM

Let's take a look see thru the another one of fossil fuel's line.
The present supply of produced lithium is in Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Australia and China. The supply of both brine & hard-rock sources is ample and concerns of global shortages are simply speculative. To attain at one ton of lithium, Latin America uses ~750 tons of brine, the base material for lithium, and adds 24 months of preparation. Lithium can also be recycled an unlimited number of times, and it is said that 20 tons of spent Li-ion batteries yield one ton of lithium. This still leaves equal or even greater supplies found in other locations, & include US sources that were in place before demand began to increase, those could be restarted if required in the future.

Doug Stansfield (not verified)    April 18, 2017 - 9:11PM

I agree with Randall. There is plenty of Lithium since it can be recycled if demand picks up. Try recycling all the spent oil thats already been burned. All gone. At least when Hydrogen burns you get water back out of it. That can go on perpetually but I'm still counting on EVs to rule for quite a while still!