Executives say electric vehicle industry must work more closely with lithium suppliers

FILE PHOTO: An electric car is charged at a roadside EV charging point, London
FILE PHOTO: An electric car is charged at a roadside EV charging point, London, October 19, 2021. REUTERS / Toby Melville

December 2, 2021

By Ernest Scheyder

(Reuters) – Automakers must work more closely with lithium producers to ensure supplies of specialized white metals that help increase the range and performance of electric vehicles, executives Albemarle Corp and Livent Corp executives told Reuters on Wednesday.

As electric vehicles become mainstream, automakers are planning models that can run for longer before recharging and handle varying weather conditions. Batteries for such electric vehicles are typically made with a type of lithium called hydroxide that cannot be stored for long periods of time and must therefore be manufactured in custom batches.

As a result, its production requires extensive planning and investment, something lithium manufacturers are hesitant about even if prices rise unless the automakers sign a long-term contract and share the plan. development, Eric Norris, Livent CEO, Paul Graves, said on Reuters. Next dashboard.

“It is very important that we have a relationship and transparency with (the carmakers) so as not to put them in a situation where there is no product,” said Norris, who joined Albemarle in 2018. that they need,” said Norris, who joined Albemarle in 2018.

“We need certain economies to be able to keep growing.”

Without such coordination, the auto industry may not have enough of the lithium needed to make electric vehicles last longer, thereby making them less attractive to consumers.

Global demand for lithium last year was about 320,000 tonnes. Most industry consultants expect 1 million tons by 2025 and 3 million tons by the end of the decade.

“There can be periods where there isn’t enough lithium to do exactly what every (car maker) is trying to do,” said Graves, who has run Livent.

“The sphere of the equation has to be very thoughtful about its business plan for the next three or four years.”


General Motors Co, Stellantis NV and others signed supply agreements this year with so-called direct lithium mining (DLE) startups that promise sustainable production of lithium from geothermal brine in the United States. California and Germany. Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures also invested in a DLE company.

DLE technologies vary, but they all promise a one-size-fits-all approach to extracting metals from any geologic deposit globally, an incredible prospect for an umbrella industry. I am yearning for more offers.

However, DLE technology is also typically more energy-intensive and energy-intensive than evaporative ponds, which use solar energy to produce lithium. Both executives say DLE works best when designed for a specific lithium deposit, a factor that will likely limit enthusiasm for it.

Norris says of DLE: “You need to be realistic when it comes to what is being advertised as more sustainable. “It often focuses on one element of that sustainability, not the whole picture.”

Livent itself uses a type of DLE technology in Argentina along with evaporation ponds, a tailor-made method that might work at that operation but might not work elsewhere, Graves said.

“There is hope that there is a technological breakthrough that will suddenly release all this abundant lithium at a very low cost to the world,” he said. “But the rules of chemistry and physics are not easily bent.”

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; additional reporting by Clara Denina; Editing by Nick Zieminski) Executives say electric vehicle industry must work more closely with lithium suppliers

Bobby Allyn

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