EV Battery & BMS

Lithium scarcity pushes carmakers into the mining business

Date: July 3, 2023

As the demand for electric vehicles (EVs) continues to surge worldwide, automakers are facing a new challenge: securing a stable supply of lithium, a crucial component in the production of EV batteries. The growing concerns over lithium scarcity have pushed several major car manufacturers to enter the mining industry in order to gain control over this essential resource.

The global supply of lithium has struggled to keep pace with this soaring demand, leading to fears of a shortage in the near future. The electric pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, and sedans that U.S. and European automakers need to be competitive cannot be built without lithium. Additionally, the assembly lines that are being built in places like Tennessee, Michigan, and Saxony, Germany, will come to a complete stop.

In response to this looming scarcity, automakers such as Tesla, Volkswagen, and BMW have begun exploring options to secure their lithium supply chains. Rather than relying solely on lithium producers and suppliers, these companies are taking matters into their own hands by directly involving themselves in the mining process.

For instance, Tesla, the leading electric car manufacturer, recently announced its plans to enter the lithium mining business. The company aims to develop its own lithium extraction projects to ensure a steady supply of the mineral for its EV batteries. By vertically integrating its operations, Tesla aims to reduce its dependence on external lithium suppliers and gain better control over its supply chain.

“Since the start of 2022, the price of lithium has gone up so quickly and there was so much hype in the system, there were a lot of really bad deals that one could do,” said R.J. Scaringe, chief executive of Rivian, an electric vehicle business in Irvine, California.

However, venturing into the mining industry presents its own set of challenges for automakers. Developing and operating lithium mines requires substantial investments, expertise in mining operations, and addressing environmental and sustainability concerns associated with mining activities. Additionally, ensuring responsible sourcing practices and ethical mining standards will be crucial for automakers to maintain their reputations and meet the increasing consumer demand for sustainable products.

The entry of major automakers into the mining sector signifies a paradigm shift in the industry as car manufacturers adapt to the evolving needs of the electric vehicle market. By taking a proactive approach and securing their own lithium supply, these companies aim to minimize the risks posed by potential shortages, maintain competitiveness, and ensure the uninterrupted production of electric vehicles.

As the global transition to sustainable transportation continues to gather momentum, the mining and supply of critical resources like lithium will play a crucial role in shaping the future of the automotive industry.

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