By on July 29, 2010

Some folks are convinced that EVs are taking over the world. So convinced they are that they are already publicly worried about peak Lithium. Lithium is found in unstable places. An internal Pentagon memo states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” writes the New York Times. Then there are distressing news that countries like Chile, Bolivia and China sit on piles of lithium. Should we be worried? Nein, says a study from Germany.

The Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung in Germany published a study that says that there is enough known lithium to power 10 billion cars. The world produces around 60m cars a year. If all of them would be EVs (and they won’t), then we have enough lithium for 166 years. And a few cell phones. Currently, most of the lithium is used to make glass or ceramics. Batteries come second. There will be enough lithium to go around, and around , and around.

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18 Comments on “Peak Lithium? Fohgeddaboutit...”

  • avatar

    The base assumption is that lithium chemistry batteries are the pent-ultimate battery. It could (probably) be something else.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The lithium used to make batteries is not permanently consumed in the way petroleum is. Once the battery reaches the end of its usefully life, nearly all of the lithium can be extracted and recycled to make another one.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. Million.

      The risk comes if we tie up commercially viable lithium (or what-have-you) in vehicle, but yes, you’re absolutely right that it’s nothing like oil in terms of it’s life cycle.

      Currently, Toyota and Honda pay bounties on their cars’ NiMH packs, and I would assume you’ll see the same for lithium cells. We’ll probably, eventually, see standardized packs similar to what goes into forklifts today, at which point it becomes even less of an issue.

  • avatar

    Umm, famous last words. Everyone thought we would have oil forever too. 166 years isn’t that long, in fact its bound to be shorter then oil will last. Not to mention that there is no way of knowing whether we will increase the number of vehicles we produce, or the number of devices it will be used in. It seems like we would be just as reliant on a finite resource (that appears to be even more finite then oil). Human FAIL.

    In other words, I would take the exact opposite stance on this. Lithium is not a solution, obviously.

    • 0 avatar

      So, there’s enough for 10 billion cars, it’s highly recyclable, and it doesn’t pollute the atmosphere. I think it’ll work for now. Looking for THE SOLUTION FOR ALL TIME FOR ALL HUMANITY is just silly; what would the renewable society of 1900 look like? 1960? You just gotta do what you gotta do, and your descendants can figure it out as they go.

    • 0 avatar

      The sun is about halfway through its 10 billion year life cycle so I guess solar is out too.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with ToxicRoach on this one. We haven’t even had Nuclear capability for 100 years yet, so who knows, maybe 100 years from now we will have figured out a means of reliable and safe cold fusion, or fuel cells, or who knows what else.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t know it was so highly recyclable, that makes a big difference to my opinion. However, while lithium doesn’t pollute the manufacturing and recovery processes surely would. Hopefully not to the extent oil does.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      “Everyone thought we would have oil forever too.”

      Please, speak for yourself. I never thought we would have oil forever, and a whole lot of other people have long known that it is a finite resource. Who is this everyone you speak of?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with John here – for the past fifty or sixty years it’s been commonly known that oil is a fnite resource and that we would one day run out of it. If I remember correctly, this day was initially supposed to be in the 1980s.
      So, drawing from that experience, I’d say that resources tend to last longer than we project them to – maybe as a result of technological progress, maybe just due to people being pessimists. Adding that lithium seems to be pretty suitable for recycling, our resources should last for the foreseeable future.
      Which is not necessarily the case with oil. So, while not necessarily a definitive answer, lithium seems to be the go-to material for the time being.

  • avatar
    Carlos Villalobos

    Dear Bertel:
    Chile is not an unstable place. Far from it. We are sit over a pile of lithium though.
    Bolivia has bigger reserves, but the socialist goverment do not want foreign investment. Come to Chile, invest here.

  • avatar
    Carlos Villalobos

    Are you from this long and thin string of earth?

  • avatar

    To quote 1996MEdition: ‘The sun is about halfway through its 10 billion year life cycle so I guess solar is out too.’

    Does that mean we’ve already reached ‘Peak Solar’? :)

    • 0 avatar

      Probably not, no. In about 1 billion years the sun will already be 10% brighter — hot enough to boil off all our seas and oceans. We might be able to tap all that energy, but we’ll be very thirst without any water about!

    • 0 avatar

      In a billion years, we’ll have the technology to redirect water-ice comets to the warming (due to the increased solar output) Mars, making it a viable stepping-stone for humanity while it develops warp drive and huge colony ships to populate new worlds beyond the solar system.


      Our hugely evolved cockroaches (the few survivors of AGW of the 21st century) will start blogging about how hot it’s been getting.

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