Led by the energy storage and electric car revolutions, lithium could become the most vital commodity of our time. As many countries and cities are banning the sale of oil-based cars, electric ones are now competing with laptops and smartphones for lithium ion batteries. Moreover, the lithium battery boom is the heart of our wind and solar boom, with high-density storage to reserve power for when the “wind isn’t blowing” and the “sun isn’t shining” set as the “Holy Grail.”
Lithium prices have tripled over the past three years, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports that worldwide lithium production increased by an estimated 13% to 43,000 tons in 2017. Demand for lithium will no doubt continue to soar. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that “electric car production is expected to increase more than 30-fold by 2030.” By 2040, over half of all new car sales and a third of the global fleet will be electric.
Over the next several years, lithium demand could triple and prices could jump 50-75% above historical levels. For 100% electric car penetration, “lithium must see a 2,898% increase in production.” According to Tesla’s Elon Musk, “In order to produce a half million cars per year, we would basically need to absorb the entire world’s lithium-ion production.”
Battery manufacturing is the next great race and the money being thrown around at securing battery supply contracts, and the minerals to produce the batteries, is truly staggering: Volkswagen just signed a $25 billion battery supply deal.