Electric cars: there is so little lithium that Elon Musk is thinking of getting some himself

News hardware Electric cars: there is so little lithium that Elon Musk is thinking of getting some himself

The info may make you smile, but it is not so trivial as that. While sales of electric cars are racing around the world, the price of lithium has exploded in recent years. To counter this soaring price, the major manufacturers, Tesla in the lead, are seeking to control the exploitation of this rare and precious mineral.

The price of lithium has quintupled in one year

If the automobile industry is doing so well at the moment, it owes it largely to hybrid or electric vehicles, which continue to see their sales climb from quarter to quarter. While almost all brands have their own models there, the patron saint of the electric car obviously remains Elon Musk with his company Tesla.

Between SpaceX, Tesla, Twitter and the return of the Hyperloop project, we feel that things are bubbling in the head of the richest man on the planet. And among all his more or less eccentric projects that pop out of his head every day, there is one very serious one that keeps coming up, that of extracting himself, or at least creating a company to do so, the lithium, a mineral as rare as it is essential for the proper functioning of electric cars.

The reason for this observation is quite simple, demand has exceeded supply and prices have literally soared. In the space of a year and a half, the price of a tonne of lithium has practically quintupled, going from $17,000 per ton to more than $78,000. However, according to Elon Musk, the Earth would be full of lithium, you just have to bend down to pick it up. The problem comes from the lack of operators and not from the material itself.

The price of lithium has reached insane levels! Tesla may actually have to get into large-scale direct mining and refining unless costs improve. There is no shortage of the element itself, as lithium is found almost everywhere on Earth, but the rate of extraction/refining is slow.

The exploitation of lithium, a dangerous practice for the environment and biodiversity

In reality, Elon Musk’s idea of ​​extracting lithium himself is not new. Already in 2020, the billionaire had announced that he had land of around 4050 hectares devoted to the exploitation of the ore. Summern 2021, Tesla even filed a patent for a metal selection and separation system to reduce the cost of lithium extraction by more than 30%.

Pending the execution of this project, Tesla joined forces at the end of last year with Ganfeng Lithium, the world’s largest lithium supplier, to guarantee it a necessary and sufficient supply for the next three years.

Volkswagen, BMW and General Motors have also concluded agreements with German, Argentinian or Californian companies to guarantee them a substantial supply until 2026.. While waiting, perhaps, to embark in turn on the exploitation of the so much sought-after ore.

Source: BRGM

A practice that is not without risk and that makes people cringe. Because if electric cars are put forward for their respect for ecology and in a logic of sustainable development, the exploitation of lithium, essential to the proper functioning of these vehicles, is, for its part, a real disaster, both ecological and humanitarian.

To reduce the ecological impact, manufacturers are currently working on two solutions. The first is the recycling of lithium, which currently concerns only 1% of batteries (against more than 90% of lead batteries). As for the second solution would consist in producing new so-called “semi-conductor” batterieswhich rely much less on lithium than current batteries.

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