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EVs Will Consume 80 percent of Global Lithium Production

By Antonio Gozain | Tue, 01/25/2022 - 09:07

During the next decade, about 80 percent of the global lithium production will be destined to the manufacture of batteries for EVs and PHEVs, according to a report by the government of Chile.

“In the recent years, the main source of demand for lithium comes from light EVs. This is a trend that is expected to continue growing progressively, as ICE vehicles begin to be replaced by less polluting alternatives. Lithium consumption by EVs went from representing 18 percent of aggregate consumption in 2016 to 32 percent in 2019, and we expect that by 2030 they will consume about 80 percent,” reads the report published by Chile’s Ministry of Mining.

Forecasting lithium demand by the automotive industry first requires the projection of EV and PHEVs sales. Heavy vehicles, mainly buses, will also require lithium but in a smaller share. Chile’s Ministry of Economy estimated that global electromobility required 176 kilotons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) during 2021, which will grow to 1416 kilotons LCE by 2030. This represents an annual growth of 21 percent on average.

Chile is in third place in lithium reserves across the world with 9.6 megatons. It is only surpassed by Bolivia’s 21 megatons and Argentina’s 19 megatons, according to the US Geological Survey. Mexico is in ninth place with 1.7 megatons. The report highlights that 8 percent of the world's lithium is deposited in sedimentary rocks, mainly in clay, which are found mostly in the US, Mexico, Serbia and Peru. However, in this kind of deposits there is still no production, since it is concentrated in pegmatites and brines.

While EVs popularity is increasing in the US and EU, China is the world’s biggest lithium consumer. “The process for an EV battery is complex and segmented. There are nine principal cathode producers (six in China); the anodes have six relevant producers (four from China); there are nine leading electrolytes factories (six Chinese); and there are 17 top cathode-anode separator plants (11 in China). Finally, the plants where all these components are put into an EV battery account for as many as 20 leading firms with a cited installed capacity of 475GWh; 15 are in China, three are in South Korea, with one each in Japan and France,” wrote in MBN Armando Alatorre, President, College of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists of Mexico.

Mexico could become an important lithium producer in the future with the Sonora Lithium Project. However, the Energy Reform concerns a sector of the mining industry. If passed, this reform would give the state exclusive control of the country's lithium reserves, while private companies could lose their concessions if they do not meet the new criteria, reported MBN

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
MBN, Chile's Ministry of Economy, La Jornada
Photo by:   Unsplash
Antonio Gozain Antonio Gozain Journalist and Industry Analyst