• Aug 28th 2009 at 5:14PM
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2010 Nissan Leaf EV - Click above for hi-res image gallery

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.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      This gives me a couple of causes for concern:

      1) If we have 2 million ZEVs by 2015 and the number doubles every year, that's not going to reduce our carbon footprint significantly until 2025 or so. I know it's unrealistic to hope for more, but I'd love to see a reason to believe that this target is good enough to accomplish anything at all. Not that I expect an answer to this one, but I'd still love a more satisfying answer than "it's all we can do."

      2) It is, however, going to mean that we need to do a lot more mining. I'd love to see a study showing the relative environmental merits of mining for lithium vs. oil. If we replaced every car on earth with a ZEV or even retrofitted them all, what would the environmental impact be? How much lithium is lost into the environment during processing, recycling, and car crashes (1.2 million fatal car accidents per year would surely lead to some release)? To what extent would things be better, and to what extent would we simply be trading one doomsday scenario for another?
      • 6 Years Ago
      What many people still fail to understand that Hydrogen is not an energy source!

      It is an energy storage method, in essence part of an expensive and much less efficient battery. Hydrogen has to be produced using far more electical power than then can be recovered from using it in even the best theroretical fuel cells from either water or from natural gas or another source.

      Hydrogen simply is not found lying around on this planet.
      • 6 Years Ago
      People need to stop watching Fox News, actually people need to stop watching TV period. Dump the box. Your brain will thank you for it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Jon Stewart is actually a credit to journalism, he is hard hitting and critical. Ironic as his show is a comedy one.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Or if you must watch, stick with the Comedy Central and Cartoon channels! The others will rot your brain!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I sense a degree of panic among supporters of hydrogen. Resorting to repetitious spamming, using arguments already half demolished. Having to drop some of their favourite previous points altogether.

      I think some of them already realise that the 'Hydrogen Highway' is a cul-de-sac. While others remain in denial, with fingers in their ears, eyes tightly closed, head shaking from side to side - reciting, reciting, reciting.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Hydrogen isn't right for cars, but we can't discount it as an energy source. I could see it having huge applications in the future. Though i agree; probably not in cars.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What doomsday scenario? Lithium is not toxic, and is recyclable. Newer batteries use even less of the material, no reason to think this trend won't continue. Also, lithium is only one chemistry, there are many others being developed. We are at the beginning of a battery revolution.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Just as there were stupid hybrid myths that were spread before hybrids got common, there are now stupid EV myths that will have to be battled.

      The "Not enough lithium" myth and the "Lithium cartel" myths have been officially debunked, though I expect them to be repeated for a few more years.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think that the first poster is talking about Tahil, the author of The Trouble With Lithium.
      The guy is a first class nutter. The research firm that had him do the attack piece on Lithium Ion batteries took his name off the article after he published this little gem...
      Fairly disgusting stuff, stating that an insider blew up the World Trade Centers with 2, not 1, but 2, nuclear weapons, after of course slamming 2 airliners into them to give themselves plausible deniability...
      But not only does Meridian/Tahil have a problem with Lithium Ion batteries, they also have the SOLUTION!
      They have a Zinc Air battery that you just have to try! And buy!
      How convenient. The articles linked below pretty much blows Tahil out of the water. Lithium won't be cheap, but the LiIon batteries don't use a lot of it, and it is recyclable. And the lithium mines in the US have been shut down due to a falling price level of lithium ore.

        • 6 Years Ago
        You're right, Tahil is a nutter, his "nuked Manhattan" theory is complete nonsense, fabricated from the flimsiest of evidence. As for his "trouble with Lithium", not only is it self serving, but deliberately misleading, implying that the current annual production of lithium is insufficient if we suddenly switched all new car production to lithium battery plug-in hybrids. It's misleading because that the conversion to plug-ins won't be overnight, gassers will still be produced for many years to come, and a gradual ramping up of plug-in production also gives an opportunity to ramp up Lithium production as well.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Toyota, Hybrid Innovator, Holds Back in Race to Go Electric
      New York Times, August 19, 2009

      "Toyota executives rattle off reasons to be skeptical of electric cars: They do not travel far enough on a charge; their batteries are expensive and not reliable; the electrical infrastructure is not in place to recharge them.

      Executives also say that Toyota’s reputation for reliability could be tarnished if the company forged ahead with an unproven technology.

      It remains unclear how soon there will be a mass market for expensive cars with limited range, Toyota says.

      Even when electric cars are sold widely, the company says, they will be suitable only for short trips and serve a decidedly niche market."


      (AutoblogGreen) REPORT: 115 Plug-in Priuses fail to crack 50 mpg average in year-long test


      How many mainstream consumers will pay around $10,000 more for the extra batteries for this type of performance?

      Greg Blencoe
      Chief Executive Officer
      Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
      "Hydrogen Car Revolution" blog
        • 6 Years Ago
        Greg Blencoe's arguments for HFCVs over BEVs include "energy efficiency isn't important because the sun dumps so much energy onto the earth anyways".
        • 6 Years Ago
        This post is about limitations of lithium, not Priuses. Guess what! We can get lithium from sea water if we want to http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4243641.html. On a side note, thats Toyota problem. I am a practical guy and if Toyota doesn't build it, then i am going to buy it from Tesla, Nissan, Ford, Honda, GM, Subaru, or BMW. Sorry, but that article is about an unwillingness to let go of their hybrid dominance to endorse something that will prove to be better (thus making them admit they have been wrong for the past few years). Thanks for your insight though.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Quoting Toyota is a waste of time. They simply want to keep people focused on buying cars they have for sale now and not wait to buy someone else's BEV or series hybrid.
        Toyota recently announced that they are developing a BEV to bring to market in 2012 or 2013.

        However, I agree with your $10,000 premium. This is the hardest nut to crack, people love the idea of cheaper fuel (electricity) and no pollution, but most just cannot justify the higher cost. We need a major breakthroughs in battery cost and weight and size before BEVs go mainstream.

        There is lots of lithium in the world. All the people concerned about its availability are just talking about known easy to get at reserves. If the demand is there, more will be mined.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Greg Blencoe wrote:

      ""Toyota executives rattle off reasons to be skeptical of electric cars: They do not travel far enough on a charge; their batteries are expensive and not reliable; the electrical infrastructure is not in place to recharge them."

      "Does not travel far enough" relates to where you can refill.

      An Tesla driver who heads one way to out in the "middle of nowhere" is much more likely to find a place to charge at one of the billion charge points in the US than a Clarity owner next to him is going to have walking around with his red 5000 psi high pressure can looking for some hydrogen.

      Expensive? Lithium can be extracted from seawater. I believe Platinum is not nearly as common.

      Why are batteries not reliable? Billions and billions of cel phone and laptop owners would disagree.

      Ifrastructure is easy. For the 5Million dollar price of a single Hydrogen refueling station, you can build 20 Solar roofed Electric Vehicle charging stations or 500 kiosk plug in points spread out over a city.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Google "Trouble with lithium" and you'll see a paper by someone who is skeptical of lithium based batteries due to resource constraints, and even he thinks there's enough Lithium in the world to make 4 billion 5kWh batteries.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Thanks for the input Ziv. My point was that even this guy, who is arguing that lithium scarcity could be an issue still thinks there's enough lithium in the world for 4 billion 5kWh batteries, which doesn't strike me as something to get worried about. If this is "lithium shortage spokesperson" as you say, then I think we can relax a little bit. By the time we start exhausting supplies, we'll be moving on to Mr Fusion or something.

        Thanks though for pointing out a little bit about this guy's background, I am ashamed for not having checked out his credentials before spreading his word around.

        It is still worth noting that the country with the largest supply of Lithium is Bolivia. I get a little nervous when a very poor country suddenly has one of the hottest commodities. I just hope the Bolivian people can actually see some benefit from this some day rather than just get screwed over as usual.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Argghhhh... Jeff the guy that authored that hit piece is William Tahil, I tried to reply to your comment but got sent all the way to the bottom of the stack. The lithium problem is not nearly as bad as his article states, if you have time check out a couple of the links I put down there. And here is another response to his article...
        Tahil is the guy that wrote an article claiming that the World Trade Centers were destroyed by insiders using 2 nuclear weapons. The airliners were just for show, apparently. Pretty idiotic stuff, and he is the principle spokesperson for the Lithium shortage experts list.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Irrelevant, beacuse we already have "7 reasons to love hydrogen fuel cells" and 2015 will be the year of hydrogen economy. LOL! :)
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