Electric vehicles web-journal EV World has done the English-speaking world a favor by translating an excellent Peak Lithium story written last week by Le Monde journalist Hervé Kempf. What is Peak Lithium you ask? The notion that a wholesale shift to EVs powered by lithium batteries in response to peaking petroleum production could just as quickly exhaust the global supply of lithium metal.
Kempf credits a May 2008 study by consultancy Meridian International Research — The Trouble with Lithium 2 — as the source of growing concern over peak lithium; the study concluded that reasonable increases in lithium production over the next decade will generate enough of the light, energetic metal to produce batteries for only 8 million batteries of the sort that GM plans to use in its Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid.
But he does his own homework, providing an accessible introduction to the geological distribution of lithium and its likely magnitude. I say ‘likely’ because Kempf shows that industrial secrecy makes it difficult to assess the probability of a peak lithium scenario prematurely squelching the electrification of the automobile.
As George Pichon, CEO of French metals trader Marsmétal puts it in Kempf’s piece, the world of a lithium metal is “un monde fermé.”
Alas, it’s just a little less closed today thanks to Le Monde and EV World.
This post was created for Tech Talk – Insights into tomorrow’s technology from the editors of IEEE Spectrum.