Nissan was clear from the unveiling of the Leaf EV that the battery would be a 24 kWh lithium ion pack. They've now said that each pack will require about 4kg of lithium (metal equivalent*). This new number gave an analyst over at GL Groups a chance to crunch some numbers and see if any of the worry over a limited amount of lithium available as we move to more and more electrification in automobiles. The short answer: no need to worry.
Using 24 kWh as an average pack size – a reasonable choice considering that the Chevy Volt will use a 16 kWh pack while the Tesla Roadster will sport a 53 kWh pack – and an estimated worldwide production of 500,000 hybrids and pure electric cars with these large packs in 2015, the total lithium demand would be around 2,000t (metal equivalent). This would be not even 10 percent of the lithium that was mined in 2008. The analyst – an unnamed "GLG Expert Contributor" who is a member of the GLG Energy & Industrials Councils – estimates that enough lithium could be produced to make up to two million li-ion vehicles by 2015. Add in some lithium recycling and the fact that lithium producers were only operating at about 75 percent of total capacity last year, and worries about a lithium OPEC seem misplaced. At least for now.
[Source: GL Group]
*Non-rechargeable lithium batteries contain lithium metal, whereas li-ion batteries do not use lithium metal.