Lithium Shortage

Discussion in 'Prius, Hybrid, EV and Alt-Fuel News' started by sdgeiger, Jan 24, 2007.

  1. sdgeiger

    sdgeiger Junior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2004
    97
    0
    0
    Location:
    Phoenixville, PA
    Vehicle:
    2005 Prius
    Model:
    N/A
    The Coming Lithium Shortage
    Late last week, William Tahil, the director of research for Meridian International Research in France, sent me a copy of a white paper his firm just published entitled, The Trouble with Lithium. It is one of the most disconcerting documents I've seen in a long time. I was so troubled by its contents that I immediately contacted Mr. Tahil and asked to do a telephone interview with him to discuss his findings. By the time you read this, we should be into that dialog, but I wanted to give you, as a premium subscriber, advance notice of it.

    The gist of the paper is that there is not enough lithium carbonate and lithium chloride -- the two key salts used to formulate lithium metal for advanced batteries -- in the world to produce the necessary batteries to convert the world's gasoline and diesel fleet to HEV0 (conventional hybrids), PHEVs and battery electric vehicles or BEVs. And even if there were sufficient deposits, most of which are located above 3000 meters in the Bolivian, Chilean and Argentine Andes in ancient dry lake beds, at current rates of worldwide production it would take 75 years to build one billion 5kWh battery packs.

    But won't demand for more lithium result in greater production and therefore lower prices? Not necessarily as you'll learn when I talk to Mr. Tahil. Well, what about mining the oceans and how about all those deposits of Spodumene; and isn't there a study out of Sweden that indicates there's plenty of lithium for billions of electric cars? All good questions and I'll be asking them and more. But to kindle your curiousity , here's just one chart from Meridian's paper.

    Big Business and Environmental Leaders Call for Climate Action
    In an revealing sign of the times, some of the world's largest multi-national corporations have joined hands with top-tier environmental groups in a unified call for action on global climate change. Alcoa, BP, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, FPL Group, GE, PG&E have partnered with several environmental groups including NRDC, Environmental Defense, Pew Center and World Resources Institute in forming the US Climate Action Partnership, which just this week published its first Climate Report.

    In the report, the group makes the following recommendations to Congress:

    * Enact Legislation as Quickly as Possible
    * That legislation needs to achieve GHG stabilization over long term at 450-550 ppm of CO2.
    * The overall approach must also be cost-effective
    * A cap and trade system is essential
    * Establish short and mid-term GHG emission targets
    * Emission offsets purchases should be allowed
    * Emission allowance allocations also need to be established
    * Cost control measures needed to ensure long-term price signal stability
    * Establishment of national emissions inventory and registry
    * Credit given for early action
    * Federal R&D/demonstration programs need to be established
    * Sector-specific policies and measures needed.

    The last of these recommendations is focused largely on coal-based energy systems, which fuel half of the electric power grid on the United States and 70% of China's, the world's two largest GHG emitters. The partnership specifically recommends the following:

    Policies are needed to speed transition to low- and zero-emission stationary sources and strongly discourage further construction of stationary sources that cannot easily capture CO2 emissions for geologic sequestration. Regardless of how allowances are generally allocated, they should not be allocated to such new sources.

    Congress should require the EPA to promulgate regulations promptly to permit long-term geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide from stationary sources. Congress should fund at least three sequestration demonstration projects in depleted and abandoned oil and gas fields and saline aquifers with CO2 injection, each at levels equivalent to emissions produced by a large coal-based power plant.

    One of the oft-heard objections to electric-drive vehicles is the fact that they are powered by electricity generated by dirty, coal-fired power plants; therefore, they can't be any cleaner. This assertion has been answered many times and shown to be in error on a number of points, but if we are to prevent it from becoming true, then carbon sequestration and other pollution control measures, as well as increased reliance on renewable energy, need to be speedily implemented. We can't build anymore coal-fired plants without making sure they have to be upgraded to new technology as it becomes available; and we no longer permit the grandfathering of obsolete plants.

    Only then can we say EVs are non-polluting.

    Where Fuel Cells Make To Sense
    Steady progress continues to be made in fuel cell technology from micro fuel cells to stationary power units, though cost and durability continue to be issues. What you're hearing less of is work on automotive fuel cells, though work here continues as well. But what we appear to be seeing is a realization that while the technology is ideal for low-power and high-power uses like laptop computers and industrial-sized generators, it seems less well suited to automotive uses, though clearly it does work. In late November, I finally got to drive GM's Hydrogen3 fuel cell Zafira around the block in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

    But as EROEI (energy return on energy invested) becomes a much more critical part of evaluating any technology, it seems to me that the real promise of fuel cell technology isn't in the car, but on the ground. A recent study by Frost and Sullivan supports this view noting that whereas competing power generating technologies are at best 30-35% efficient, stationary fuel cells are 40-49% efficient in energy utilization; and when the heat is utilized from the fuel-cell reaction, the overall efficiency rises to between 80-85%. Where this heat is a problem for automobile engineers, it's a boon to co-generation.

    Which helps explain why pioneer fuel cell maker Plug Power and German-based Vailant Group have been awarded a $6.8 million grant by the EU and the U.S. Energy Department to develop fuel cell-based co-generation units that provide both power and heat (and possibly cooling) from the primary fuel source. This approach makes vastly more sense to me as the pathway towards fuel cell commercialization than trying to shoehorn fuel cells into cars at the current state-of-the-art.

    Whatever Happen to Peak Oil?
    Oil prices appear to be in free fall. Prices have dropped for the first time in a year-and-a-half below $50 a barrel. Pundits cite this as proof the peak oil theory is dead and done for. But is it really? I suspect we'll hear from ASPO and ODAC, both groups that study peak oil shortly, but in the meantime, I'll offer my take on what's happening, starting with the weather.

    Up until a last two weeks or so, the weather has been unusually warm in North America, which has lessened the demand for heating oil, allowing refiners to build up inventories and reduce the amount of fuel they've had to buy on the open market.

    Next, I think more Americans are coming to the realization that oil is a finite resource and that prices are likely to continue to be volatile, ranging as they have from $75 a barrel to less than $50 in the last year, and that oil prices are now driven as much by political events as production availability. A labor strike here, a terror threat there, and saber-rattling generally everywhere can set off a wave of speculative trading. Gone are the sanguine days when our Saudi friends could be relied upon to help stabilize the market.

    As a result, the car buying public is starting to shift their purchases away from gas guzzlers to smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. Industry too is realizing, as the group of multinationals in the US CAP partnership demonstrate, that energy efficiency and reducing one's carbon footprint, is not just good for public relations, it's also good for the bottom line.

    Coming back to Meridian's lithium supply study, the paper notes that the explosion of basic commodity prices on metals like lithium, cobalt and nickel in the last 12-18 months may, in fact, be indicators that we've really reached peak oil. Until recently, lithium metal traded for $1/kg. In 2006, it was going for $5/kg and some Japanese battery makers are apparently offering up to $10/kg or $10,000 per metric tonne, "a tenfold increase in 2 years," Tahil reports.

    The very fact that oil prices are as volatile as they are suggests to me that peak oil is very much alive and well.

    Time to Set Floor on Oil Prices
    In one of those strange, uncomfortable political juxtapositions, I find myself agreeing with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez that we need to set a floor on the price of oil and I think $50 a barrel is a good place to start. And why would I want this you ask, and who sets the floor and how do you police it? The answer to the first question is easy. I want to prevent the market from dropping to the point where investments in energy alternatives -- from cellulosic ethanol research to advanced batteries for electric cars -- becomes economically unattractive... yet again.

    In addition, higher oil prices encourage Americans to also replace their gas-guzzlers with more fuel efficient models, which then encourages car makers to offer those models, letting the market work.

    Who do you have administer it and how? Those are questions for professional policy wonks, but I'd like to see that any difference between the U.S. benchmark of $50 and the International futures price, if less than the floor, be paid to the U.S. government in the way of an import surcharge and that those funds be rolled into tax incentives to encourage buyers to continue to downsize their vehicles or shift to hybrids.

    And while I am in a taxing mode, how about implementing a carbon tax along the lines of what Charles Komanoff is proposing at his new web site, CarbonTax.Org. And I think we all agree that any schemes we come up with can't be regressive and end up harming those less capable of bearing the burden. I interviewed Congressman Roscoe Bartlett late last week -- that interview will be on the site later this week -- and he agrees that if we raise taxes on fuel or carbon, that we reduce it by an equal amount somewhere else, preferably in federal withholding taxes so the program is revenue neutral.

    We're going to need all kinds of creative ideas like this -- and the support of our citizenry -- to make this work and happen ASAP.

    Until next time, stay plugged into EVWorld...
     
  2. TonyPSchaefer

    TonyPSchaefer Your Friendly Moderator
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2004
    14,810
    2,453
    65
    Location:
    Far-North Chicagoland
    Vehicle:
    2017 Prius Prime
    Model:
    Prime Advanced
    As long as I have enough to fill my prescription, I'm fine.

    (that was funny in two ways)
     
  3. MegansPrius

    MegansPrius GoogleMeister, AKA bongokitty

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    2,437
    26
    0
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Vehicle:
    2007 Prius
    Model:
    II
    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(TonyPSchaefer @ Jan 24 2007, 10:47 AM) [snapback]380013[/snapback]</div>
    Let's go for three. If the Mr. Tahil of Meridian is the same one who advocates that the twin towers were brought down with underground nukes (and no, I'm not off my lithium), as indicated by
    http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:pSKpj...t=clnk&cd=2
    and
    http://www.nucleardemolition.com/GZero_Sample.pdf

    I would actually welcome correction that the Tahil of the nuke conspiracy is not the one of Meridian, even if it does affect my lithium supply.
     
  4. nerfer

    nerfer A young senior member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2006
    2,462
    191
    28
    Location:
    Chicagoland, IL USA, Earth
    Vehicle:
    2006 Prius
    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(MegansPrius @ Jan 24 2007, 09:22 AM) [snapback]380028[/snapback]</div>
    Look at the bottom of the page on your first link, it says that Mr. Tahil is a researcher at Meridian. But the rest of Meridian seems rather professional on a cursory glance. They have an article on peak oil I intend to read.


    Regarding the initial post, PriusChat policy is to quote a couple paragraphs and provide a link to the remainder, so as to avoid copyright issues. This can't be done in this case, because it was taken from an e-mail from EVWorld to paid subscribers, so there is no available link. However, I think it would be prudent for the OP to quote a couple paragraphs and give a summary of the rest, and if people are interested in the full story, they can subscribe to EVWorld for themselves (and then also see the chart that was referred to). The lithium information is in the first couple paragraphs anyway.
     
  5. hill

    hill High Fiber Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2005
    15,382
    5,442
    54
    Location:
    South OC So Cal & Nashville, TN
    Vehicle:
    2004 Prius
    Model:
    IV
    Lithium is not the silver bullet for car batteries as (do a google search regarding battery fires upon impact or heat) you may think. There are lots of other chemestries that are being used that are much more stable for high energy usage. Thus, no worries. Moot point.
     
  6. qbee42

    qbee42 My other car is a boat

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2006
    18,058
    3,031
    7
    Location:
    Northern Michigan
    Vehicle:
    2006 Prius
    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(hill @ Jan 24 2007, 12:44 PM) [snapback]380131[/snapback]</div>
    That's a really funny metaphor if you stop and think about it.

    Tom
     
  7. nerfer

    nerfer A young senior member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2006
    2,462
    191
    28
    Location:
    Chicagoland, IL USA, Earth
    Vehicle:
    2006 Prius
    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(hill @ Jan 24 2007, 11:44 AM) [snapback]380131[/snapback]</div>
    Runaway thermal effects (as the industry likes to call it) of lithium-ion batteries are well-known. However, there are various ways to get around this and still use lithium, such as a lithium-polymer battery. They are definitely not going to put the same batteries as in today's laptops straight into vehicles. That's part of all the dollars in R&D going on now (Valence, A123). (Altho I think the reworked Lotus does use those batteries, but separates them and has a protective shield. Still not the best approach in my mind). Lithium does have the advantage of packing a lot more energy into a given weight and volume than either NiMH or lead-acid solutions, including the firefly redesign of lead-acid, although that holds promise (price, for one). Also nickel prices are going up, so lithium is becoming more attractive for that reason, altho this article claims that attraction could be short-lived. Ultra-caps might be part of the answer, or flywheels or high-pressure hydraulics, etc. but they won't be the whole solution either (long-term energy storage is a problem).
     
  8. bhaynnes

    bhaynnes Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2006
    225
    2
    0
    Location:
    Belmont CA
    Vehicle:
    2006 Prius
    Luckily, a gentleman in Nigeria sold me a whole lithium orchard. When the price of Lithium goes up, I'll be rich..
     
  9. mwbueno

    mwbueno New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    37
    3
    0
     
  10. usbseawolf2000

    usbseawolf2000 HSD PhD

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2004
    14,487
    2,961
    0
    Location:
    Fort Lee, NJ
    Vehicle:
    2012 Prius Plug-in
    Model:
    Plug-in Base
    Great information. I didn't know Lithium is recyclable up to 90%.

    Lithium is also used in applications other than PHEV such as power tools, laptop and other consumer electronic rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries. The actual amount that can be used in PHEV and HEV will be less than the total available.

    Dennis
     
  11. clett

    clett New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2005
    537
    19
    0
    Location:
    Scotland
    Vehicle:
    Other Non-Hybrid
    Ditto Wayne!
     
  12. dmckinstry

    dmckinstry New Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2006
    1,034
    4
    0
    Location:
    Cheney, WA (Near Spokane)
    Vehicle:
    2005 Prius
    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(usbseawolf2000 @ Feb 5 2007, 08:47 PM) [snapback]385904[/snapback]</div>
    Unless I misread the article, 90% of the lithium they recycle is done by remote control. For all I know, 100% could be recycled. But whatever it is, that isn't made clear in the article.

    Anyway, it's encouraging that it is being recycled.

    Dave M.


    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(mwbueno @ Feb 5 2007, 08:27 PM) [snapback]385897[/snapback]</div>
    BTW, everyone should check out your web site.

    That's where I first got a good description of how to block the grill.

    Do you have any idea when the Windows version of your Hybrid Synergy Simulator will be available?
    For that matter, how much will it cost? I don't have a Palm, but might get one if the Windows version is a long ways off.

    Thanks for the great site.

    Dave M.
     
  13. Orf

    Orf New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2006
    414
    4
    0
    Location:
    Devonport, Tasmania
    Vehicle:
    2009 Prius
    Model:
    N/A
    Have no fear, ladies and gentlemen, Australia mines about 10% of the worlds lithium. We have reserves not touched as yet.
    Also, Chile has another lithium source coming on line in 2008. Should be enought lithium to power your next Prius.
     
  14. burritos

    burritos Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2006
    4,946
    252
    0
    Location:
    California
    Vehicle:
    2006 Prius
    For those who are into stocks, ROC is a holding company that supposedly has sort of a monopoly on the Lithium mines in the USofA.

    WFR has a similar situation for silicon(if you believe that solar is going to empty the silicon supplies).
     
  15. gx9901

    gx9901 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2008
    4
    0
    0
    Erroneous Data Interpretation

     
  16. FL_Prius_Driver

    FL_Prius_Driver Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2007
    4,319
    1,526
    0
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    Vehicle:
    2010 Prius
    Model:
    I
    One of the jobs of the USGS is to keep tabs on all the worlds minerals. I have been using the following web site for years to figure out the status of lithium:

    USGS Minerals Information: Lithium

    Key information is:

    "The identified lithium resources total 760,000 tons in the United States and more than 13 million tons in other countries."

    If you do a little detective work on the report causing the controversy, you will notice that the major reserves of Lithium are discounted because they are "uneconomical" to recover. This is the most crucial assumption and it is not justified by any math, just a passing statement.


    PS (I find I am helping recycle posts after responding)
     
  17. daniel

    daniel Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2004
    14,487
    1,512
    0
    Location:
    Spokane, WA
    Vehicle:
    2004 Prius
    Though this is an old thread, I just thought I'd note that putting laptop batteries into cars is exactly what Tesla Motors is going to do with the soon-to-be-mass-produced Roadster, following AC Propulsion's innovation with the tzero. Tesla uses a liquid cooling system for its laptop batteries, which were chosen because they are readily available at relatively low cost and in large quantities.

    But with luck, ultra-capacitors will become available before Australia and Chile exhaust their supplies of lithium.
     
  18. bbald123

    bbald123 Thermodynamics Law Enforcement

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2007
    386
    269
    0
    Location:
    Harrisburg, PA
    Vehicle:
    2016 Prius
    Model:
    Four
    You don't have to read any more than the quoted statement to know this is garbage.

    According to: Oil firm as US reports stocks rose, as expected UPDATE

    oil is at $87 a barrel.
     
  19. donee

    donee New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2005
    2,956
    193
    0
    Location:
    Chicagoland
    Vehicle:
    2010 Prius
    Model:
    III
    Hi gx9901,

    I doubt highly that the carbonate form is the only form of Lithium ore that can be used for batteries.

    There are these people named "chemists" who spend years in college to figure out how to take things like sulfates, and oxides and convert them to things like carbonates, and elemental metals. Indeed, aluminum ore is primarily an oxide, and metalic aluminum is not available in nature as a pure metal. That has not stopped people from making products from aluminum metal. Copper is primarily available today as a sulfate/sulfite ore these days (used to be a mined as a naturally occuring metal).
     
  20. gx9901

    gx9901 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2008
    4
    0
    0
    Carbonate extraction from Spodumene
    Process for the purification of lithium carbonate - US Patent 6048507
    The lithium carbonate is then recovered by filtration, and the liquor is recycled back to the extraction process. The purity of the material, once dried, is approximately 99%, but is insufficient for battery grade lithium metal production or for pharmaceutical grade lithium carbonate. In particular, calcium levels are too high.


    Spodumene
    The production of lithium carbonate from spodumene is much more energy intensive than the production from lithium chloride-enriched brines. Spodumene concentrate must be heated to about 1100°C to make it more reactive. Then it is finely ground, mixed with hot sulphuric acid and heated to 250°C to form lithium sulphate. Water is added to dissolve the lithium sulphate. Finally, lithium sulphate is treated with soda ash to yield lithium carbonate.

    Lithium chloride-enriched brines that contain somewhere around 300 parts per million (ppm) only need to be pumped from the ground and deposited in evaporation ponds where the natural evaporation process increases the concentration to 6000 ppm in a period of 1-2 years. The liquid is then pumped to a processing plant where it is reacted with soda ash, precipitating lithium carbonate.



    You disagree and to an extent you are correct. But there is something called "economics". I will reiterate that carbonate is a must in Li-ion batteries. Go ahead and look at the electrochemistry of a battery on Wiki. Spodumene deposits must be converted to carbonate adding complexity and time to production.

    Additionally, Toyota is already selling the Prius as a loss, from the figures provided, replacing 11% of global car production with Li powered EVs/hybrids in 2004 would have required DOUBLE the production capacity that year; assuming production could have been doubled the cost of carbonate would have skyrocketed nonetheless. Thus, affecting users of carbonate in other industries as well in mental health prescriptions.

    Add to that, the first excerpt shows that refining of the carbonate is required. Further adding to the cost.

    Of note is the fact that no environmental study has been made of mining Li on a scale to supply the replacements for our current fleet of cars.

    The goal of the paper was merely an application of the old adage: Do not put all of your eggs in one basket. Had the US listened to Carter's 1970s address with greater enthusiasm, we would not be so dependent upon imported oil. Some of the wild-eyed hybrid/EV enthusiasts insists these are the answer. Now we trade oil dependency for Li dependency.

    Judging from the responses to this thread, I very much doubt that most people on these forums took the report seriously. Download it, read and research. Then come back to the report and you would realize it is not screaming Chicken Little but instead advocating diversification of technological investment.

    Furthermore, pinning our collective hope on emergent technology to solve our oil dependency is fallacious. I have a few friends in Hong Kong who are millionaires; nothing enormous but considerably richer than me and the majority. They don't bother using their cars on a daily basis, the city's mass transit system is ridiculously efficient.

    Hong Kong has a population of 7 million with 500 000 registered vehicles. Vancouver with a population of 2.3 million has 1 300 000 registered vehicles.

    What's needed is the political will to raise mileage standards in addition to public transit oriented urban planning. Past that, a collective realization that cars are not a birthright.
     
Loading...