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The Trouble with Lithium
Implications of Future PHEV Demand for Lithium Supply and Resources

Executive Summary
Lithium Ion batteries are rapidly becoming the technology of choice for the next generation of Electric Vehicles - Hybrid, Plug In Hybrid and Battery EVs. The automotive industry is committed increasingly to Electrified Vehicles to provide Sustainable Mobility in the next decade. LiIon is the preferred battery technology to power these vehicles.

To achieve required cuts in oil consumption, a significant percentage of the world automobile fleet of 1 billion vehicles will be electrified in the next decade. Ultimately all production, currently 60 Million vehicles per year, will have to be replaced with highly electrified vehicles – PHEVs and BEVs.

Analysis of Lithium's geological resource base shows that there are insufficient economically recoverable Lithium resources available to sustain Electrified Vehicle manufacture in the volumes required, based solely on LiIon batteries. Depletion rates would exceed current oil depletion rates and switch dependency from one diminishing resource to another. Concentration of supply would create new geopolitical tensions, not reduce them.

Reliance on other hypothetical, unproven potential sources of Lithium such as Seawater is not a realistic or practical strategy on which to base a technology revolution in the automotive industry.

The alternative battery technologies of ZnAir and NaNiCl are not resource constrained and offer potentially higher performance than current automotive LiIon technology. Research and industrialisation of Electrified Vehicles should also prioritise these alternative battery technologies.

THE SUPPLY OF lithium, which is a key ingredient in lap-top batteries, could dry up if it is seen as a alternative fuel for cars, a key boffin has warned.
Lithium batteries are being touted as a way forward for electric cars, but according to William Tahil, director of research for Meridian International Research this could result in the world's lithium supply drying up really fast.

In his newly released white paper entitled, "The Trouble with Lithium", he points out that the vast majority of world's supply of lithium carbonate, is only found in China, Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. He estimates total world lithium metal reserves at just 6,200,000 metric tons.

In chat with EV World, Tahil said that while lithium salts production could double in the next few years, the industry can't produce enough lithium to build the hundreds of millions of large-format batteries needed to power the electric cars and plug-in hybrids of the future.

He said the motor industry should have another look at sodium nickel chloride and zinc-air, both of which offer comparable or greater energy density than lithium without the attendant safety or resource depletion issues. This is because there is a lot more Zinc in the ground than lithium. Laptops and handhelds will make short shrift of the available Lithium anyhow.
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