Hitting the Biden administration’s goal of a 50 percent reduction in the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles might be stymied by a shortage of lithium, according to one mining executive.
“Yes, we’ll [eventually] have enough, but not by that time,” Keith Phillips, CEO of Piedmont Lithium, said, according to Yahoo Finance.
“There’s going to be a real crunch to get the material. We don’t have enough in the world to turn that much [lithium] production in the world by 2035,” he said.
The price of lithium has almost doubled in the past year, with much of the short-term increase in lithium coming from outside the U.S. That works against an Inflation Reduction Act tax credit that will require EV components to be sourced in North America.
Piedmont Lithium last week announced it will start building a lithium processing plant in Tennessee next year and has plans to build one in North Carolina as well so that it can meet a demand level of enough lithium for one million vehicles a year when the plants are up and rolling.
“The world has changed,” Phillips said. “We’re now in an era where everyone’s going to want an electric car. The car companies can’t make them fast enough, and people are now looking for the lithium they need for the batteries to go in those electric cars.”
Phillips said businesses face permitting hurdles to open American plants.
“Projects get permitted [in Australia] in under a year,” Phillips said. “Here, it’s two, four, six, seven, eight years, which is a problem, especially in a business that’s booming so fast.”
“Energy security is a national issue,” Phillips said. “I think you’ll see companies that are thinking about battery plants in different parts of the world or lithium conversion plants coming to America because this investment tax credit will be very valuable…The market opportunity is huge.”
Results take time, many said.
“Considering it takes seven years to build a mine and refining plant but only 24 months to build a battery plant, the best part of this decade is needed to establish an entirely new industry in the United States,” said Simon Moores, chief executive of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, said, according to Reuters.
“The most feasible option is to use recycling … yet the impact of recycling will be very limited when there are barely any EVs coming off the road,” Max Reid, an analyst at WoodMac Battery Raw Materials Service, said.
🚘🇨🇳 – Lithium is in high demand, fuelling price boom for crucial commodity (and worries around supply)
• Lithium is necessary to build batteries for electrical vehicles (EVs)
• China controls 80% of world’s lithium supply, but droughts there are weighing on production pic.twitter.com/ulLzW2y8Cs
— Agathe Demarais (@AgatheDemarais) September 6, 2022
Kent Masters, chief executive of Albemarle, the largest publicly traded lithium producer, said the market will remain tight, according to the Financial Times.
“It’s systemic for a pretty long period of time,” Masters said. “For seven to eight years it stays pretty tight.”
The International Energy Agency has said that globally, another 60 lithium mines need to be operational by 2030 to meet emerging needs.
“There’s a serious challenge with lithium availability,” Chris Berry, founder of House Mountain Partners, a battery metals advisor, said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.