"Peak" Lithium Could Affect Electric Cars

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Commodities, Green, Supply & Demand

Who killed the electric car?  A lack of lithium resources could do the trick. Rumors abound that  future lithium shortages  might slow production for electric car developments,  especially  when demand for the lightweight metal rises against a decreasing supply.  Once popular for glass and ceramics,  lithium has already  undergone  increased demand for lithium-ion batteries in everything from cell phones and laptops to the latest breed of automobile, including GM’s Chevy Volt and Mitsubishi’s latest endeavor, an electric car headed for the market soon.

Photo: The Mitsubishi iMiev, a new electric car. Credit: Ecomodder.

Despite the excitement over electric vehicles, Mitsubishi has a realist perspective. “Mitsubishi estimates that lithium demand will outstrip supply as early as 2015,” explains website Earth2Tech, which notes that “batteries make up one-fifth of the world’s end-use market for the mineral  — a share that will only grow if the auto industry goes where lithium-ion start-ups like ActaCell, A123 Systems  and Imara are betting it will.”

Photo: Lightweight lithium is classified as  an alkali metal.

Pointing out that foreign miners are desperately seeking an entry to lithium-rich Bolivia to keep up with demand, the article adds:

The U.S. Geological Survey’s mineral commodity specialist on lithium, Brian Jaskula, offers a more conservative estimate, forecasting that demand will begin to drive lithium prices up in the next 10 to 15 years. But the signs are clear: Lithium, which now costs less than a buck per kilogram, will not stay cheap for long.

What next? The technological designs and  innovations that use the least lithium are ready to run full-steam ahead. Until then, trade talks with Bolivia will keep mining companies busy.

–Amy Edwards

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