The process in producing lithium and the electric car relation is is close related. Experts are predicting for 2040 half of the all cars sold will be electric. Li-ion batteries which use lithium compound as one electrode material seems by now the best option for powering the electric cars, but, there is enough Lithium on earth for all this demand?
Lithium, also called the white petroleum
According to Goldman Sachs, global demand for lithium increased by 26% in 2016. The foreseen increase for 2018 will be around 39%. Furthermore we need lithium also for the production of lubricants, ceramic glass, glues and other products.
Lithium world estimation is around 40 million tons. So the availability of this material is not a determining factor for the big scale production. The problem is rather extracting and producing lithium for the electric car batteries.
Extracting lithium, from the salt flats of America or China, involves to transport the brine to massive ponds and wait until the water evaporates out. The whole process takes around two years. As the battery demand increases, it can’t afford to continue to degrade the environment to extract this material. And not only lithium, other materials are also needed for the battery production. Materials as graphite and cobalt and also those have an environmental impact on earth ecology.
So what to do?
There are some startups working to empower better and cheaper cars of the future.
For example, Lilac Solutions, bets for an alternative extraction method for the lithium. Lilac’s proposed solution uses ion exchange, an alternative process for extracting and producing lithium electric car. That can boost lithium production and access new, lower-quality resources. Instead of using evaporation ponds, the process extracts lithium by using materials that can selectively absorb lithium from brine. And then release it at a high concentration.
But not only the innovation comes from the extracting process. Other startups are working in new battery types as the metal-air batteries or solid-state batteries. This batteries offer more energetic density or better performance specifications.