There are forecasts that there will shortages of key minerals for EV batteries but there is also a potential glut of LFP batteries. It is also possible that both events happen with a temporary 2 year glut of LFP batteries and a shortage of nickel batteries.
China’s new production capacity for lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cathode materials tripled in the first three quarters of 2022, sparking speculations that an overcapacity crisis may emerge in the second half of 2023 or in 2024, according to supply chain experts. China’s battery makers have invested over $200 billion to build new iron LFP factories and supply chain to supply 2 terawatt hour per year by 2025. There was 300 GWh of EV batteries in 2021 and 600 GWh of EV batteries in 2022.
Substituting New Battery Chemistries and Radically More Efficient Mineral Usage
Iron LFP batteries have surpassed nickel batteries for supplying electric cars and iron LFP uses no nickel or cobalt. Iron LFP completely negates concerns about nickel and cobalt supply impacting ultra high production of EVs.
Tesla is also constantly reducing the wiring needed in electric cars and Elon is targeting eventually getting down to 300 feet of copper wiring for a Model Y.
CATL, the largest battery company in the world, is scaling up Sodium Ion batteries. Sodium Ion batteries would eliminate lithium in all fixed energy storage and some electric cars.
Nextbigfuture has examined CATL sodium ion batteries and CATL ramping plans.
People like Peter Zeihan who predict some kind of simple shortage scenario blocking the electric car revolution and fixed battery storage at massive scale are ignoring that these are rapidly becoming trillion dollar and multi-trillion dollar industries. Tens of billions of dollars every year are going into developing new mines, lithium refining, recycling and battery and EV research and development. It is like saying Apple would run into a roadblack scaling iPhones because of some mineral needed for the current generation of smartphones. Nvidia, Intel and TSMC would not be stopped scaling chip production and fabs because of some mineral limitation. In the science fiction book and Dune movies, they have the quote..”the Spice must flow.” Multi-trillion dollar per year industries will innovate and develop the resources needed to maintain production and growth.
For decades, there were people outside the oil industry who said that we would run out of oil and growth in oil would stop and decline. The oil industry developed deepwater drilling, shale oil production and other technologies and processes to maintain economic production growth. There will be challenges and limits to be overcome. There will be a lot of resources unlocked and innovation to realize the multi-trillion per year by 2030 prize and another ten times by 2040.
A US Congressional Report looks at the critical minerals needed for the high volume electric car future.
Lithium deposits commonly occur in rock formations in minerals (e.g., petalites, lepidolites, spodumene), clays, and in solution in brines (e.g., salars, geothermal systems). According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), lithium is extracted from brines that are pumped from beneath arid sedimentary basins and extracted from granitic pegmatite ores. The leading producer of lithium from brine is Chile, and the leading producer of lithium from pegmatites is Australia. Other potential sources of lithium include clays, geothermal brines, oilfield brines, and zeolites.
Australian company, Ioneer, plans to develop a lithium mine on federal land in Nevada. The mine would produce approximately 20,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate over the expected 26-year mine life. Piedmont Lithium is planning a spodumene mine and lithium hydroxide conversion operation on private land in North Carolina. Piedmont Lithium reports that the combined mine/hydroxide operation would produce 30,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide per year, for 20 years.
Noram Lithium Corporation, a Canadian company, plans to develop a lithium clay mining operation on federal land in Nevada, one mile from the Albemarle operation. The lithium would be processed near the mine site, and annual production of lithium carbonate is expected to be approximately 6,000 metric tons per year, for an initial period of 40 years.
In 2020, the California Energy Commission (CEC) estimated that the subsurface rock in the southern Salton Sea region contained subsurface brine with the potential to supply 40% of the world’s lithium demand and generate over $7 billion in annual revenue. The potential of this region to produce clean energy and lithium is so promising that the CEC set up the Lithium Valley Commission to further investigate opportunities in this area. The United States has the largest known geothermal resource in the world, with an estimated potential to provide up to 10% of the total US electricity capacity.
But geothermal resources at the Salton Sea don’t just offer renewable energy—the brine is full of minerals, including valuable metals like lithium, that could be extracted with the right technologies.
There is a 2021 NREL technoeconomic analysis for the cost of extracting lithium from the Salton Sea and geothermal brines. A review of these projects indicates expected production costs (i.e., operating expenses or OPEX) near $4,000/metric ton of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) and reported internal rates of return suggest this production cost target is economically feasible with estimated prices of ≥$11,000/mt LCE. Many techniques and process strategies have been proposed to extract lithium directly from geothermal and other brines, and these can be generally categorized into adsorption, ion exchange, and solvent extraction techniques. Of these technologies, the ones currently advancing to pilot- and near-commercial-scale demonstrations involve adsorption and ion exchange techniques.
Aluminum Can Replace Copper
A Nextbigfuture reader has noted that Aluminum can replace copper.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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