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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