From 2035, no new cars with petrol or diesel engines will be sold in Europe Moreover be allowed. But with electric mobility as an alternative, a crucial commodity could become scarce, warns an authority and suggests ways out.
The traffic reversal is in full swing. EU environment ministers have agreed that newly registered cars will be climate-neutral from 2035, which means they should not emit CO2. Electric cars play an important role in this, after all they have no exhaust where the exhaust gases come from.
But one important raw material in electric car batteries is scarce – and becoming scarcer: lithium. Due to its properties, the light metal is indispensable in today’s lithium-ion batteries and is therefore one of the key raw materials for reversing traffic. Lithium is also used in hydrogen cars because batteries store energy from the fuel cell.
The amount financed cannot cover the demand in 2030
In a study, the German raw materials agency DERA looked at the availability of lithium and came to a clear conclusion. “Even if all projects currently planned and under construction are implemented on schedule and we assume average demand growth, we will not have enough lithium to meet projected global demand in 2030,” says study author Michael Schmidt.
How is lithium obtained?
Lithium from Australia comes from mineral extraction, in Chile and Argentina lithium comes from salt deserts, the so-called salars. Salt water containing lithium is brought to the surface from underground lakes and evaporates in large swimming pools. The remaining saline is further processed in stages until the lithium is suitable for use in batteries. This method has been criticized, among other things, because drought is increasing in the cultivation areas and the level of groundwater at the edges of the salars is increasing due to the influx of fresh water.
At least four times the amount is required
Lithium is currently mainly extracted from mines, in 2020 lithium production was around 82,000 tons worldwide. Only 50 to 60 percent of these met battery manufacturing requirements. But if electric mobility continues to grow, demand by 2030 should be at least four times that, depending on the calculation scenario, between 316,300 and 558,800 tons. 90 percent of this is likely to be needed for electric car production, currently still around 67 percent.