64 Comments

All this analysis is assuming we use all available lithium for EV automobiles and trucks. A typical EV car has about 1000 lbs of batteries. Trucks can be up to 3000 lbs of batteries. Whereas a typical e-bike battery weighs up to 20 lbs. One car ~= 50 e-bikes. One truck ~= 150 e-bikes. As we try to replace gas cars and trucks with some form of EV, we have a once in a forever opportunity to change our minds on how an average person should get around. Let's not waste it.

Expand full comment

Are you saying we should give up our cars and ride bicycles and take mass transit?

Expand full comment

We don’t all need to give up our cars but people in urban areas (cities and large towns) need to come to terms with a reduction in private car ownership/use and a move to public transport, micromobility (e.g. eBikes and eScooters), car sharing (e.g. Zipcar) and walking 😱. Most car journeys are under 2 miles and have just 1 person in the vehicle, easily cycled or taken by public transport.

Expand full comment

Cost/the free market will do that if it makes economic sense in people's minds. Otherwise, haranguing won't actually change behavior.

Expand full comment

Not everyone takes decisions or acts on narrow financial grounds. Environmental, health and social benefits count too. Policy-makers should not waste an opportunity to help create a better future.

Expand full comment

Children are being forced to work in the mines to obtain the materials necessary for these batteries. It also comes at great environmental cost. https://junkscience.com/2020/10/mean-and-unclean-electric-cars-powered-by-child-labor-in-africa/

And what type of energy is used in mining these materials? It certainly isn't electricity. Furthermore, our electric grid is woefully inadequate to charge all the EVs if a majority of Americans owned one. What happens to the batteries at the end of their lifespan? They are expensive to recycle, even if that were possible. They will end up in landfills along with the giant, broken-down wind turbine blades. The cost of building all the charging stations that would be necessary is prohibitive. That is another cost that will be forced on taxpayers.

There is also the issue of time. How much is your time worth while you are waiting for your turn at the charger or waiting for the amount of time it takes to charge your vehicle? And I would hate to see what happened in a natural disaster if everyone owned EVs. How are you going to evacuate millions of Floridians when there's a hurricane if the power is out or they have to wait hours to charge their EV?

The price of EVs are way beyond the reach of most Americans, and that is even with all the taxpayer subsidies. Yes, others are paying for your EV. The true cost of these vehicles is hidden by the subsidies and toll charges being used to promote EVs. Money is merely a measure of value, and when government puts its thumb on the scales, it distorts the true cost and real value of what is being produced.

There are still the problems with range, of issues when the weather is cold, and the occasional EV bursting into flames while being charged.

Finally, the idea of man-made climate change is a hoax. It is designed to deliver more power to the globalist elites who want more control over our lives. The same people who have been saying sea levels will rise and wipe out the coasts have been buying multi-million dollar mansions right on the beach, and for at least 20 years, they have been scaring people by saying the world would end in 10 years. What is the carbon footprint of their mansions, private jets, and yachts? We are being conned.

Expand full comment

Lol, you might be in the wrong place here buddy. Climate change is real, and caused by humans.

Expand full comment

Is 100% of "climate change" caused by humans? How do we know? The climate is always changing. Pat was talking about AGW .

Pat raised a good point... these globalist elites are crying chicken about sea level rise and then buying homes on the seashore. Case in point---Bill Gates recently bought a house here in Del Mar,CA right on the beach at sea level---not even up on a cliff or a hillside. 2940 Sandy Lane---I wish I could put a pix on this----$43 million!

Expand full comment

not all, as methane gas which is produced by livestock and water vapour and other greenhouse gases have been causing 'global warming' for 1000's of years right?

Expand full comment

GREAT RESPONSE PAT!!!

Is 100% of "climate change" caused by humans? How do we know? The climate is always changing.

These same elites and enviro's have been trying to force us out of our cars and onto mass transit for years. "Climate change" is a handy reason to use to achieve that. They also want us to give up our suburban homes and live in little apartments like in Europe.

Pat, you raised a good point... these globalist elites are crying chicken about sea level rise and then buying homes on the seashore. Case in point---Bill Gates recently bought a house here in Del Mar, CA right on the beach at sea level---not even up on a cliff or a hillside. 2940 Sandy Lane---I wish I could put a pix on this----$43 million!

Expand full comment

I totally agree with everything you’re saying. I’ve having this debate with my friends & they all think I’m wrong. Yet, when asked if they’ve research anything & they’ve all said no!

Expand full comment
Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

Every single point you make is flawed or debunked.

Children working in mines - Car industry is massively adopting cobalt free batteries.

What type of energy to mine? Doesn't matter- what matters is overall lifetime carbon emissions of a vehicle, ICE vs electric, and every major study concludes EVs come out ahead, even accounting for the gas used in mining and our FF powered grid. Turns out efficiency of using that fuel is what matters.

Time - Most EV owners charge at home. In time we could all do this. No going to a gas station EVER unless you're on a long trip. Natural disasters - like the kind increasingly caused by climate change which you deny?

Price - boo hoo subsidies. Go look up how much we subsidize oil and gas vs EVs. Unbelievable.

Exploding EVs - Combustion-Powered Vehicles Are 29 Times More Likely To Catch Fire - Motortrend.

Climate change is a hoax - so climate change is a hoax because rich people are building homes on the beach? What about all the scientists dude? Deliver more power to the elites? You mean like the oil industry does?

You picked a whole bucket of cherries here. Look at the whole tree when making a call on these issues.

Expand full comment

Completely agree.

Expand full comment

So, we have enough lithium for now and things look pretty good for the future. But . . . what about the environmental costs of mining lithium--whether from mineral extraction or evaporating saltwater? We have seen the kind of devastation that occur from mining coal and oil drilling. Can wqe prevent such things from happening as we mine lithium. In addition, is the waste from lithium mining a health hazard? I hope we can temper our lust for lithium by putting environmental and waste disposal protection procedures into place as we ramp up lithum mining.

Expand full comment

EV technology is only temporary. It is a great solution for the current CO2 emissions, while hydrogen is not ready yet. Eventually, hydrogen will take over.

Expand full comment

I guess we'll notice once stockprices start going up again...

Expand full comment

The amount of lithium required to electrify vehicle transport is hundreds of times less than the fossil fuels we currently mine

Expand full comment

The problem with the approach of this article is that it assumes that the best option is to replace every single ICE vehicle with an EV. This, when millions of cars are lining our streets, unused - on average - for 95% of the time. I'm all in favour of introducing EVs, but this has to be accompanied by a massive reduction in in motor vehicle use in general and the introduction of proper alternatives (public transport, cycling, walking, home working, a less frantic life, work near homes - all things that were very common in the past). Then, the issues of resource availability, extractivism, ecological damage and exploitation become more easy to overcome.

It's interesting that this article has brought out a whole bevvy of climate deniers, making arguments about the very real problems with lithium and cobalt extraction. Ignoring these problems is just playing into their hands.

Of course, ignoring the problems is just exactly what the corporations and governments promoting a mass EV market similar to the current ICE one are doing. So also are the beginnings of struggles against extractivism for EVs, both in Bolivia and Serbia and I have no doubt in other places as well. It is these that will limit availability of resources for EVs and also delay the uptick in production that this article deems necessary.

Finally, there is a scientific error in the article. The statement "it’s easy to imagine that decades from now, the chemistry of batteries will have changed so much that they will use two, three, or four times less than today" is incorrect. The mass of lithium in the battery determines the amount of charge it can carry. Using Faraday's second law of electrolysis

m = QM/vF

(Mass of lithium = (charge (Coulombs, or ampere-seconds) x Molar mass (7g per mole)) / (valency (1) x Faraday's constant (9.648 x 10^4 coulombs/mole))

so for a 2 ampere-hour cell (7200 Coulombs):

m = (7200 x 7)/(9.648 x 10^4) which is 0.52 grams of lithium. This is the theoretical minimum mass of Li/Li+ that transfers 2a-h of charge.

A cursory look at the internet says that a 2 ampere-hour 18650 cell contains "about 0.6g" of lithium, only about 15% more than the minimum. I can't see much scope for reducing this, as there will always be losses and inefficiencies in these cells.

Expand full comment

Cost/the free market will do that if it makes economic sense in people's minds. Otherwise, haranguing won't actually change behavior.

Expand full comment

The free market means that only those who can afford electric cars will get them. If you want people to accept the radical measures necessary to combat climate change, then tackling inequality is a necessary part of the process. Already governments (at least in Europe) are brining in laws to end production of ICE cars and vans by 2030-2040, so there won't be a free market in any case. Private ownership of EVs controlled by the market in this context is asking for all sorts of political trouble.:

See this manifesto concerning extractivism: https://pactoecosocialdelsur.com/manifesto-for-an-ecosocial-energy-transition-from-the-peoples-of-the-south/

Expand full comment

Environmental, health and social benefits count too.

Expand full comment

leo.beilin@gmail.com

Very interesting. My question is what about the number of available.charging stations ?

The federal gov't is mandating eventually a charging station every 50 miles on the interstates.

What will power the charging stations? Renewables are certainly not totally available & reliable at all times, So carbon sources will be needed also.

I would imagine that each charging station will need a HUGE lithium battery as a backup when there are inevitable occasional power cuts to the charging stations from the main power sources.

My (uninformed) speculation is the numbers of charging stations and their power demands may be the biggest bottleneck

Expand full comment

Great article. I enjoyed the napkin math fact checks as well, it makes it much easier to understand and grasp. Thank you!

Expand full comment

I think one thing to keep track off regarding this topic is lithium mining from seawater. There, the resources are on the order of 180'000 Million tons - far more than we will ever need (see: https://tinyurl.com/4uckm4z9). Desalination of sea water is probably going to be a big thing, soon - concurrent production of lithium from the residual brine might be an intersting option, too.

Expand full comment

I've read somewhere that, in a worst-case scenario, magnesium-based batteries may have adequate performance to sustain EVs, and magnesium is one of the most abundant elements in the Earth's crust, we will never run out of it.

Expand full comment

Weight of the battery will increase by minimum 1.7.

Expand full comment

Lithium sourced from geothermal and oilfield brines in North America and elsewhere are an untapped source of this critical mineral. In Alberta, Canada alone, a handful of resource companies are reporting well over 50 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent already (i.e "www.neolithi.ca"). The western Canadian sedimentary basin alone has well over 100 million tonnes, and its production will be pretty "green" compared to open pit mines in Australia or the aquifer depleting salars in South America.

Expand full comment

I'm an miner, and one of the few people on this planet who has actually built a lithium mine. This article should be correct but it is not. Should be because we have all the lithium badly needed for EVs and other applications. It is not correct because the mines take far longer to be built than people can imagine and this is where the problem lies. Typical time frames are 10-20 years from discovery. That is due to: complexity and funding, environmental issues, governments are incredibly slow to approve things, NIMBY, and on and on. In Canada, for example, once you have discovery, engineered, financied, obtained environmental and community approvals for a new mine, you still need to get a tailings permit and the government itself estimates 1-2 years for this. You can't even apply until the other items have been checked off. Adding to that, most lithium mines take a further 1-3 years to get the chemistry right to produce the purity needed for batteries. This is why lithium is trading above $60,000 per tonne, up from $7000 per tonne a few years ago. Ms. Ritchine, I'm happy to discuss this with you if you want any clarificaiton.

Expand full comment

"complexity and funding, environmental issues, governments are incredibly slow to approve things, NIMBY" Are these things really going to be such a roadblock if the demand for lithium skyrockets? The gold miners, oil tycoons, and coal miners of old weren't wasting any such time. But when it comes to green energy and stopping runaway global warming, NIMBY is going to be the Achilles heel?

Expand full comment

Wow, these comments are all over the place.

There is no mining that is "clean" but nobody offers an better alternative.

Oil and gas will be here to support the transition but you have to start the transition at some point.

Recycling is not cost prohibitive for lithium batteries. As a matter of fact several companies are going to make an enormous profit doing just that.

Mining cobalt is dirty business with bad labor practices. The industry is well aware of it and likely why anyone on this thread even knows there is a problem. Companies are transitioning to less cobalt in their batteries and also focused on improving those conditions. The skeptic in me thinks the people commenting here are just using that as an excuse since their other comments don't appear to be supportive of other ideas outside of status Quo.

Mining practices for lithium are also going to improve. There are several ways to mine without large evaporation ponds that will decrease time to get material and also be cleaner for the environment than traditional mining.

There is a strategic need to source critical minerals from places outside of China to ensure security of the US and allies.

I am an advocate and believe in this future. It has room for improvement but it has to start somewhere. Don't stop progress with focusing on the immediate issues. Focus on resolving those issues to continue to make incremental improvements.

Expand full comment

More important is cobalt, which is mined in Africa using children as slave laborers. Is it really worth destroying the lives of children to satisfy the silly green movement? Wonder if it was your child forced to work mining this stuff? EV's are actually killing machines in more ways than one.

Expand full comment

“silly green movement” 🫣

Expand full comment

yes

Expand full comment
Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

Lithium Iron Phosphate used in all standard Teslas uses no cobalt. Do research. Encourage solutions, don't just be a naysayer.

Expand full comment

It may be worth mentioning that there are two companies currently exploring for lithium deposits in Cornwall. One of them, Cornish Lithium, is planning to exploit lithium deposits in brine, but without using an evaporation process.

Expand full comment

Hi Hannah

There are 40 million cars in the uk. IF there are the same number in 2050 and each has 8kg of lithium then that's 320 000 tonnes of lithium in the uk in cars. Plus loads more in grid level storage, home storage etc. The UK is only 50 million people. There's only 120/130million tonnes of reserves - so clearly not enough for the whole world. Unless things change eg more reserves found , more hydrogen used, new types of batteries developed...

Expand full comment

We are assuming all lith goes to EV's, what about the solar industry? how much do they need and what grades. The chip industry?

Expand full comment

there is an estimated 88 million tonnes of lithium in the world and on average 8 kilos to make a standard lithium ion battery for a car, that is 110000 hybrid/electric cars which is no where near enough to give everyone a hybrid, as well as the massive deisel engines that is required to power these 'electric' charging stations put out just as much if not more than driving around a normal car

Expand full comment