Lithium for a Clean Future

Lithium batteries are essential for a clean energy future that relies on the expansion of carbon-free renewable energy and emission-free electric vehicles.

What is Lithium?

What is Lithium?

What is lithium?

Lithium is the lightest metal on the planet. Its unique electrochemistry allows lithium atoms to be discharged and recharged efficiently and repeatedly in batteries we use every day in our laptops, phones and electric powered vehicles. One tonne of lithium carbonate equivalent can power approximately 17 electric vehicles (that have 60 KWh batteries). Additionally, lithium batteries are critical in renewables for storage of wind and solar generated energy and distribution to the grid.

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Supply and Demand

Supply and Demand

Supply and Demand

Global lithium production is currently estimated to be around 350,000 tonnes per year lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). Forecasted demand for LCE by 2025 is approximately 1,000,000 tonnes per year and by 2030 is forecasted to exceed 2,000,000 tonnes1.

Right now, China is the world’s leading manufacturer of lithium chemicals, with most of the mining in Australia and South America1. In 2019, the US had a 1% share of lithium mining.

Increased demand for lithium is driven predominantly by electric vehicle sales. Benchmark Mineral Intelligence forecasts electric vehicle demand to increase at an annual compound rate (CAGR) of 29% over the coming 10 years. In addition, Benchmark forecasts stationary storage demand to grow at a CAGR of 41%, over the next 10 years, overtaking portable electronic demand by 2024.

Globally, policy makers have set targets to ban the sales of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to meet clean air objectives. As early as 2035 in Norway and the Netherlands, 2030 in the UK, Germany, Israel and India, 2035 for California and 2040 in France. Plus, major automakers, such as General Motors and Volvo, have announced plans to go fully electric by 2035 and 2030, respectively1.

Bottomline, the world needs more lithium production to meet these global targets.

Lithium Supply and Demand to 2040

1Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, Q1 2021 Forecast

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US Clean Energy Agenda

US Clean Energy Agenda

US Clean Energy Agenda

On April 22, 2021, US President Biden announced targets for the US to achieve a 50-52% reduction of greenhouse gas pollution from 2005 levels by 2030.

Over the next decade, US battery capacity is expected to grow by eight times to over 355 GWh, with 10 domestic battery megafactories planned for development during this period1.

By 2030, US battery capacity is expected to need over 250,000 tonnes of battery-quality lithium carbonate equivalent per year1. The US currently produces less than 1% of global output2.

Our Thacker Pass project in Humboldt County, Nevada is uniquely positioned to play a key role in building an American-made lithium supply chain. Thacker Pass has the potential to increase US lithium supply over 10-fold – a huge leap forward towards meeting expected domestic demand, as well as create good-paying jobs, reduce America’s overall carbon footprint and support autoworkers building modern, efficient electric vehicles.

Nevada could quite literally power the US electric vehicle fleet. Lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) from Phase 1 at Thacker Pass (30,000-35,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of LCE) could enable 500,000-585,000 electric vehicles (with an average 60 kilowatt-hour battery) per year. Phase 2 production of up to 60,000 tpa of LCE would enable up to 1,000,000 electric vehicles per year.

Visit the Thacker Pass project page to learn more or our Community Connections page to learn how Thacker Pass can benefit Nevada.

1 Source: Lithium Americas Presentation, December 10, 2020, citing Benchmark Minerals and McKinsey & Company (slide 11)

2 Source: Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, "A New Global Lithium Ion Economy is Being Created" - Benchmark's Simon Moores US Senate Testimony Transcript.

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What are other uses of lithium?

Today, the increased demand for lithium is for use in lithium-ion batteries. Lithium is also used in many applications, including the manufacture of ceramics, pharmaceuticals, alloys, and lubricants.

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence forecasts electric vehicle demand to increase at an annual compound growth rate (CAGR) of 29% over the coming 10 years. In addition, Benchmark forecasts stationary storage demand to grow at a CAGR of 41%, over the next 10 years, overtaking portable electronic demand by 2024.

Large scale batteries are used to store energy generated from solar and wind, to continue feeding the grid when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. For example, California ISO operates the US’s biggest battery storage system in California to bank excess solar power. Additionally, utilities are using lithium batteries for grid stability to protect during brownouts.

What is the urgency for electrification?

The greenhouse gases released by traditional oil-based energy are leading to accelerating climate change1. These changes have already had adverse effects on the world’s plants and animals, and will continue to degrade the ecosystems we rely on. This will lead to higher costs and more shortages in our supply chains. Rising sea levels and more frequent and intense extreme weather will continue to cause the destruction of our cities and coastlines. The World Economic Forum has reported that the threshold for dangerous warming levels2 will be reached between 2027 and 2042.

Global leaders have joined together to commit to reducing greenhouse gas pollution to reduce global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this, the world needs to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 and reach net-zero global carbon emissions by 2050.

In April 2021, 40 world leaders convened at The Leaders Summit on Climate, in advance of November 2021’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), to commit to stronger climate action.

1 Source: National Geographic, "Global warming solutions, explained", January 24, 2019.

2 Source: World Economic Forum, "Earth could cross the global warming threshold as soon as 2027", January 7, 2021.

Where does lithium come from?

Currently, the majority of lithium is sourced from hard rock deposits in Australia or brine operations in South America. China currently processes over 50% of the world’s lithium.

Many mineral supply chains lack diversity

What are the different types of lithium?

There are two main types of lithium – lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide used for battery production. Within each type, there are two grades – industrial grade and battery grade.

Industrial grade lithium is used in glass, ceramics, alloys and lubricants and contains higher mineral impurities. Whereas battery-grade lithium has a very low tolerance to impurities; the high level of purity and consistency is required to meet performance, safety and lifetime in battery manufacturing.

Lithium hydroxide has historically been priced higher than lithium carbonate. Lithium hydroxide is made from lithium carbonate for most of the brine resources, while hard rock and sedimentary projects could produce lithium hydroxide directly.

Lithium Chemical Price Forecast

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