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The topic of energy has become one of the most important in recent years. The current and continuing climate crisis has meant an analytical eye applied to all energy sources. For some this meant intense scrutiny, fossil fuels dropping drastically in popularity. Although when it comes to more renewable or clean energy the results are unclear. Fusion, fission, air, water, electric, all these new and old sources of energy are constantly being compared and contrasted.


Looking at Lithium to Power the Electric Vehicle Industry


While electric hasn’t won out in every industry, one it certainly has is that of transportation. Electric vehicles are on a giant rise and even electric bikes are seeing an upswing in demand and use. The primary element driving these vehicles, lithium. Lithium is a highly renewable element utilized in almost any battery-powered product. Currently lithium is already in high demand.


This shouldn’t come at a surprise. Batteries in phones, for example, are not only extremely common but irreplaceable. Batteries are also an essential component of energy storage in every country. Yet this demand was reported as recently as 2021 to amount to about 500,000 metric tons. This amount, while massive, is dwarfed by the projected demand of 4 million in 2030. This demand is predicted to be accounted for in its vast majority by batteries. Electric vehicles are on the rise and not going anywhere


Hearing a number like this begs the question of how much lithium there is to be used? Luckily, the answer is a lot. Unluckily, there’s a question on exactly how much is easily available to us. Lithium must be mined and extracted and this isn’t the easiest process to manage, taking years at times. 


Also, lithium is highly localized to certain regions. Currently two countries, Chile and Australia, control over 65% of the lithium supply chain. Chile has the biggest reserves on the planet while Australia is the world’s biggest producer. This begs the question of how lithium will be distributed to the nations that so heavily demand it. A question that is yet to be answered on a larger scale.


While there are a lot of questions around the future of lithium, there is luckily a lot already known. While batteries may sap supplies of lithium fairly rapidly, not all uses of lithium work in this manner. Lithium used in ion exchanges, solvent extraction, and membrane separations can be recovered anywhere from 80% to 99% in quantity. While these are more niche uses than simple batteries, they’re extremely important. Not all lithium is simply disappearing never to be seen again. 



In the end, lithium is a finite resource. It’s finite in the countries it exists within. It’s finite in its amount of uses. And it’s finite in how much there is on the planet. Over the next ten years it is going to become a much more important resource. Today, it’s taken for granted in its use in vehicles, phones, and other key products. Yet electricity is nothing without batteries and consequently without lithium. Electric energy’s key element is lithium.

Lithium In The Energy Economy

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