Updated: Jun 9
US Has Enough Lithium For 53 Billion Electric Car Batteries
While Westerners have been severely restricted from visiting China during the Covid epidemic, new regulations allow a few visitors. Reports from a recent US visitor to China indicate that the roads are filled with electric vehicles. China is surely ahead in t eh manufacture of EVs. China is a true leader in this regard.
Can the US catch up? Can the US auto industry dominate the EV market? The auto industry is the engine of the US economy and to have a strong economy, the US must dominate the auto industry.
According to a recent New York Times Article, “Can the World Make an Electric Car Battery Without China?” https://www.nytimes.com › 2023/05/16 › business › China. It says that by 2030, China will make more than twice as many batteries as all other countries combined, The article goes on to describe how China controls the lithium minerals markets and the rare earth materials markets.
However, this does not tell the whole story. If the NY Times article is to be believed China will dominate going forward. But, it does not have to be that way.
Rare earth minerals and lithium as markets currently dominated by China can be initiated in the US. The rare earth materials are simple tailings from iron ore mining. It is the cost of separation of the minerals, and processing, that has put the US behind, not a lack of mineral resources Technology can solve the problem. We need automated processes and Department of Defense investment to make rare earth minerals available to the US auto industry.
On the south flank of the Clark Mountain Range in California Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine and Processing Facility, owned by MP Materials, an open-pit mine of rare-earth elements supplied 15.8% of the world's rare-earth production in 2020. It and several other companies are ramping up rare-earth mining and processing facilities in the United States. Rare earth minerals are not rare at all, they are just expensive to separate out from a pile of leftover dirt from iron ore mining operations.
As of 2022, work is ongoing to restore processing capabilities for domestic light rare-earth elements (LREEs) and work has been funded by the United States Department of Defense to restore processing capabilities for heavy rare-earth metals (HREEs) to alleviate supply chain risk.
And a similar story is true for lithium. In Ogden, Utah Compass Minerals identified 2.4 million metric tons of lithium resources. The company has a lithium carbonate solar evaporation site. It has initiated a 1,000 metric ton battery-grade lithium carbonate facility for phase one. For phase two, it intends to build a 28,000 metric ton battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate facility. Once fully operational, annual production capacity is anticipated to be 35,000 metric tons. This is only one company in the US. There are many more US companies with similar plans for mining and refining lithium.
From this one company, Compass Minerals, at 0.6 grams of lithium per car battery, this is enough for 52,919,109,833 (=1,511,974.57*35,000), 53 billion electric car batteries. This estimate then needs to be modified by considering the number of batteries per EV and the increased efficiencies being brought by research. In any case, the US has plenty of lithium to initiate an EV industry worldwide.