Ann Arbor, Michigan – Even with a large-scale global fleet of electric vehicles, there is enough lithium to supply batteries for the next 90 years, according to researchers at the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Company.
The researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, assessed the global availability of lithium and compared it to the potential demand from large-scale global use of electric vehicles. They concluded that sufficient resources exist through to at least 2100.
Lithium, a rare-earth metal, is a key ingredient in the batteries used in hybrid and electric vehicles. It also has uses in lubricating grease, glass, air conditioning and portable batteries.
The researchers compiled data on 103 deposits containing lithium, with an emphasis on 32 deposits that each have a lithium resource of more than 100,000 metric tonnes. The data includes deposit location, geologic type, dimensions and content of lithium, and the current status of production. They estimated a global lithium resource of about 39 million tons. The second part of the study examined lithium demand during the same period of 2010 to 2100. The total demand was estimated to be in the range of 12 to 20 million tons of lithium, depending on assumptions regarding economic growth and recycling rates.