More On Peak Lithium  

Posted by Big Gav in

The Next 100 blog has a post on the recurring "peak lithium" issue - Peak Lithium ?.

If you believe them, the looming crisis of "peak oil" will soon have a counterpart in "peak lithium," as demand from the consumer electronics sector and plug-in vehicles converges to overwhelm limited supplies of the Periodic Table's third element. (The nuclear industry faces similar skeptics who claim that uranium supplies have peaked.) ...

Concerns over the adequacy of world lithium reserves first surfaced in the mid-1970s, when advocates of fusion power wondered if their miracle cure for the energy crisis would be foiled by shortages of the element. (Lithium deuteride was a key to the ignition of the first hydrogen fusion bomb.) A panel subsequently convened by the National Research Council estimated world reserves of lithium at less than 11 million tonnes--but the potential crisis fizzled along with fusion power.

The latest alarm was sounded by William Tahil, research director of Meridian International Research, His December 2006 paper, "The Trouble with Lithium," concluded, "there is insufficient lithium available in the Earth's crust to sustain electric 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." ...

Lithium optimists have a champion in Keith Evans, a geologist who has specialized in the element for forty years. He maintains that world reserves of elemental lithium are today more than twice the estimate in 1976, despite growing production. ...

So who's right? One way for non-experts to decide is to watch the money. GM, as noted, is banking on lithium batteries. So is Nissan, which reportedly plans to invest a billion dollars with NEC to produce lithium-ion batteries for the vehicle market. Honda reportedly plans to produce as many as 500,000 lithium-ion batteries a year. They must know something.

But then there's Toyota, the world's most experienced manufacturer of hybrid vehicles. Toyota uses nickel-metal hydride batteries in the Prius and doesn't see much future in lithium. "The future supply of lithium will not be able to sustain both the exponential growth in batteries for consumer electronics and a large automotive battery demand," said Jaycie Chitwood, environmental strategy manager for Toyota's advanced technology group.

1 comments

For a critique of Tahil´s and Evans´main arguments see my two EV World articles:


(1) www.evworld.com/articl...; and
(2) www.evworld.com/articl...

In addition, you can also find my latest article on the subject in the January 2009 issue of Industrial Minerals at mineralnet.co.uk under the title "Lithium´s Electric Shock". If you are not a subscriber of Industrial Minerals please write me at jczuleta@gmail.com for a PDF version. This article is a preview of the paper I will be presenting at the upcoming Lithium Supply & Markets conference in Santiago.

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