Tobacco Road? Try lithium.

Rockwood Lithium, as part of the federal government's Recovery Act, opened a larger lithium factory in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, to help meet what's expected to be an increase in lithium demand stemming from more purchases of plug-in vehicles.

The expanded plant is a result of a $28.4 million investment from the federal government's Recovery Act and will support about 100 new jobs. Overall, the Rockwood Lithium project, which also includes a Nevada plant, will make enough lithium to make batteries for more than half a million electric-drive vehicles a year.

U.S. lithium demand has tripled in the past three decades because of increases in electronic components and automobiles that require lithium batteries, forcing the U.S. to import most of its lithium from South America.

With more domestic lithium supply, automakers are looking to control the costs of battery-electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in hybrids in order to better meet more stringent greenhouse-gas emissions standards. President Obama has said he hopes for 1 million plug-in vehicles to be on U.S. roads by 2015.


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  • 26 Comments
      DaveMart
      • 8 Months Ago
      U.S. lithium demand has tripled in the past three decades because of increases in electronic components and automobiles that require lithium batteries, forcing the U.S. to import most of its lithium from South America.' Aargh! That is not in the source! And that is not surprising, since it is nonsense. Lithium batteries were barely a glint in the eye until recently, and the rise in demand over the last 30 years was due to unglamorous things like it's use in glass, ceramics and greases: It follows that any recent rise in lithium's use in batteries is not what 'forced' the US to rely on imports, indeed the only reason why the US imports lithium is for the good old capitalist reason that Argentina and Chile have been able to produce it cheaper. If you don't have a clue what you are talking about, why invent things, so that everyone else gets in on the secret? Far better to just cut and paste the source as usual, so ignorance can do less damage.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 8 Months Ago
      I like how this gets spun into a story about making batteries. It's a story about mining. OH! this came from the federal government, now i get it :)
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 8 Months Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Everytime i make a comment that may be critical or suspicious of the govt, you freak out even harder and get even more illogical than i could ever try to be, PR. I am sorry i tried to out-knee-jerk you :)
        Spec
        • 8 Months Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        There is this notion that electric cars don't help because we are just trading foreign oil for foreign lithium. This points out that is not really the case.
        Ziv
        • 8 Months Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        I will see both your single knee jerks and raise you a double knee jerk. That is 3 knee jerks, to you.
        PR
        • 8 Months Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        What the hell does the idiotic sarcastic knee-jerk comment about the federal gov't have to do with this story? Here is the exact same story, except being reported by the Charlotte Observer using an interview with the company: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/06/29/3352715/rockwood-lithium-upgrades-75m.html Are you going to make knee-jerk sarcastic remarks about the Charlotte Observer, and the Rockwood corp the same as you made about the fed gov't? You wonder why you have a reputation of being a knee-jerk anti-gov't Libertarian idiot. If you don't like your sign, stop putting it around your own neck with comments like this.
      Peter
      • 8 Months Ago
      150,000 is the Smyrna plant capacity. Nissan is only forecasting 20,000 Leafs sold in the US by the end of their fiscal next year. Long term they hope to ramp it up and hopefully getting other EVs built and/or lower cost options, but although sales are good, they are not in that (100,000 pa per model) range, at least here in North America.
      Actionable Mango
      • 8 Months Ago
      On the one hand there are stories about lithium battery oversupply predicted for years. And on the other hand I read stories about increasing capacity to meet demand. Not sure how to rectify the two.
        DaveMart
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        It's pretty generally accepted that short of oil rocketing to $200/barrel or something that there will be a heck of a lot of spare capacity in the next few years. So of course Governments everywhere are rushing to ensure capacity is increased still more! ;-)
        Chris M
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        This new plant isn't a battery producer, it's a lithium mining and refining operation. Lithium has other uses besides making batteries, though right now batteries appears to be the number 1 use.
          Ele Truk
          • 8 Months Ago
          @Chris M
          Acutally, ceramics and glass are number 1 usage of Lithium, batteries are #2 (but not by much) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:USA_Lithium_Usages.svg
        Alexi
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        The situation sounds slightly similar to the air surrounding the DOE's bet on Solyndra. Hopefully nothing like that happens again because the backlash is unpleasant.
        Anne
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        Since the general perception is that demand for lithium batteries will be skyrocketing, any self respecting manufacturer that wants to be part of the future is rushing to get its offerings to market in enough volume to meet demant. The collective effect is oversupply. Everybody wants to be part of the future and now is the best time to claim market share. In 10-20 years, the market will have settled and a few big players remain.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        The amount of snake oil in alternative energy/cars is extreme. My policy: i will believe it when i see it.
        JakeY
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        There's a difference between lithium battery supply and lithium raw material supply. What you heard is about the former. This article is about the latter.
          Naturenut99
          • 8 Months Ago
          @JakeY
          from source: "The Kings Mountain and Silver Peak plants will produce lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate, which are both used to produce lithium-ion batteries, dramatically increasing U.S. domestic production of raw and processed lithium materials." ... Halfway thru 3rd paragraph. Dont always believe the pic ABG shows, it doesnt mean it is what the story is about. Unfortunately, they frequently have the "wrong" pic for the story. : ( => : )
      DaveMart
      • 8 Months Ago
      @Marco: Please provide your evidence for your idea that I have personally downrated Peter. Oh yes, that's it. you actually don't have any, which is unsurprising since I didn't. You really want to establish the facts before making allegations. It would help your credibility if you did not talk unfounded nonsense quite as frequently. You also appear to have some comprehension issues, as I in no way commented on what sales Nissan would have for the Leaf, simply on Peter's claims about what Nissan have forecasted. Perhaps you would learn to read properly before commenting, and avoid making allegations about things which you have no information on at all.
      PR
      • 8 Months Ago
      Peter -- The US plant is supposed to export to other markets besides just the US market, like the Canadian market.
      Dave D
      • 8 Months Ago
      Peter, that 20,000 is forecast for the CURRENT fiscal year. Whether or not they will hit it is another question, but that was their forecast for THIS year, not next.
      Marco Polo
      • 8 Months Ago
      @ Dave Mart, Peter expresses doubt that a vehicle that struggles to sell 600 per month currently, will suddenly sell 20 x as many because it's assembled in the 'Volunteer State' , and everyone down-rates him ? Oh, yeah, I'm forgetting, PR believes that the difference will come from a sudden demand for the Nissan Leaf in Canada ! (PR, was so keen to upbraid Peter for his heresy, that he failed to notice that Peter included Canada, which last time I looked was still part of North America). The ridiculously over optimistic estimates do nothing to assist the reputation of EV technology. It will take the best part of a decade for any pure EV manufacturer to reach single model sales in North America of 150,000 p.a. Hybrids, Plug-in Hybrids, EREV's will dominate the immediate market, until EV range, technology and price can reach affordable volume sales. Don't down-rate Peter for expressing reality.
      Peter
      • 8 Months Ago
      EV and plugin sales (US) using *optimistic* forecasts Volt say 30,000 sales pa and Leaf say 20,000 pa Other production EV's such as iMiev, Focus EV and Tesla S say 10,000 pa a bunch of conformance issue leases from BMW, Toyota, Honda.... say another 2,000 pa. So IF their public sales forecasts get hit we are 62,000 new EV's in the US each year .... Am I missing something or is all this a factor of 10 off what policy makers and battery suppliers seem to be gearing up for?
        Anne
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Peter
        Peter, you are obviously confounding annual sales with total cars sold, since that is what "1 million plug-in vehicles to be on U.S. roads" actually means. 3,5 years x 62,000 is a little over 200,000. Plus what is already there. Plus electric delivery vans, etc. And you forget the Plugin Prius, Model X plus offerings from other manufacturers that have been announced. To me it seems 500,000 is very realistic. But goals are supposed to be challenging, aren't they?
        DaveMart
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Peter
        If you ignore Nissan's forecast of 150,000 sales a year. They might not hit it, but that is a different issue, since you are talking about what the manufacturer's are forecasting. The 20,000 you give for the Leaf is for this financial year only. Facilities are planned a lot longer term than that.
        Dave
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Peter
        If anything, regular hybrids will consume more batteries than plug-ins for the foreseeable future: http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=23949 "General Motors is taking its efforts to increase fuel economy across the board seriously with its "near luxury" Buick brand. Last year, GM made the 2.4-liter four-cylinder eAssist engine standard on the Buick Lacrosse and made the more powerful (and thirstier) 3.6-liter V6 engine a no-cost option. That same approach is now being applied to the slightly smaller Buick Regal. The traditional 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is being replaced with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder eAssist."
          Ford Future
          • 8 Months Ago
          @Dave
          It takes a real hybrid to save real gas, and an EV is better.
          DaveMart
          • 8 Months Ago
          @Dave
          The e-assist batteries are small compared to those in an EV. It takes a lot of e-assist cars to use as much lithium as a Leaf or Volt.
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