Does it fail because of a raw material? Authority warns of shortages

From 2035, no new cars with petrol or diesel engines will be sold in Europe more be allowed. But with e-mobility as an alternative, a crucial raw material could become scarce, warns an authority – and suggests ways out.

The traffic turnaround is in full swing. The EU environment ministers have agreed that from 2035 newly registered cars will be climate-neutral, meaning they should not emit any CO2. E-cars play an important role in this, after all they have no exhaust from which exhaust gases come.

But an important raw material in the batteries of electric cars is scarce – and becoming increasingly scarce: lithium. Due to its properties, the light metal is indispensable in current lithium-ion batteries and is therefore one of the key raw materials for the traffic turnaround. Lithium is even used in hydrogen cars because batteries store the energy from the fuel cell.

Funded quantity cannot cover demand in 2030

In a study, the German Raw Materials Agency DERA examined the availability of lithium and came to a clear conclusion. “Even if all projects currently planned and under construction are implemented on schedule and we assume medium demand growth, we will not have enough lithium to meet the expected global demand in 2030,” says study author Michael Schmidt.

How is lithium obtained?
Lithium from Australia comes from ore mining, in Chile and Argentina the lithium comes from salt deserts, so-called salars. Salt water containing lithium is brought to the surface from underground lakes and evaporates in large pools. The remaining salt solution is further processed in several stages until the lithium is suitable for use in batteries. This method has been criticized, among other things, because the drought is increasing in the cultivation areas and the groundwater level at the edge of the salars is rising due to the inflow of fresh water.

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At least four times the amount is required

Lithium is currently primarily mined from mines, in 2020 lithium production was around 82,000 tons worldwide. Only 50 to 60 percent of these met battery production requirements. But if e-mobility continues to boom, demand by 2030 should be at least four times as much, depending on the calculation scenario, between 316,300 and 558,800 tons. 90 percent of this is likely to be required for electric car production, currently it is still around 67 percent.

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