Growth of electric vehicles may face a supply chain hurdle. Tires? Engine parts? Glass for windshields? Not necessarily.
North Carolina is squarely in this issue, too.
Lithium, the raw material for EV batteries may face a real shortage.
No batteries, no EVs, or maybe more accurately, less lithium the higher the price of the EV, which would also slow the adoption of these vehicles.
Maybe not just cars, either. Lithium is used in cell phones, laptops, and other energy storage.
“’It’s like the blood in your body,’ said Lithium Americas CEO Jon Evans, ‘It’s the chemistry behind how lithium-ion batteries work. It remains the common denominator in all the battery technologies, even that we’re looking at now for next generation batteries. So it’s truly a critical element.’” That is from a CNBC story. (image, right)
“While mining companies scramble to increase production from existing facilities and develop new sources of supply, benchmark prices of lithium carbonate ended 2021 at record levels.” In China, the largest battery producer, costs are up fivefold. (Source)
Lithium is plentiful but getting from the ground to the battery is the issue. Making it economical and accepted by neighbors and stakeholders near mines is essential.
Charlotte-based Albemarle Corporation has what is said to be the only US operating mine now, in Nevada.
California, North Carolina, and Arkansas have deposits of lithium. (Source)
Gaston County, NC, has lithium deposits. An old lithium mining area is being staged for this revival. Piedmont Lithium is the company that hopes to develop and operate it. (By the way, the company has a good, short explanation of what lithium is – here.)
Economic activity from this lithium production was evaluated in January 2022 by John Connaughton at UNC Charlotte. The study looked at multi-year economic activity, saying for Gaston County:
- In 2027, the direct output impact is estimated to be $533,607,785 in constant 2022 dollars.
- In 2027 the total employment impact (including supplier chain impacts and induced impacts) is estimated at 1,051 jobs.
- The cumulative construction total impact of the 2022 through 2027 construction phase is estimated to be $1,206,456,761in constant 2022 dollars.
- See the report for more details.
The Gaston County lithium project has stakeholder relations to manage. A community meeting back in November had neighbors expressing concerns over potential pollution, as the Gaston Gazette reported.
Technological and societal challenges are part of the business proposition to fill the shortage of lithium. North Carolina has choices to make.
Feature image is an electric Mercedes charging curbside (not in NC)