GM Works to Secure U.S. Lithium Supply for Future EVs

Extracting lithium more ecologically while boosting domestic supplies is the new goal to accelerate EV adoption.

July 08, 2021

Lithium Ion EV Battery

DETROIT—General Motors is working to secure U.S.-sourced lithium, a metal crucial to electric vehicle batteries, through a strategic investment and partnership with Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR), a lithium resource and renewable energy company, according to CNBC.

GM said the deal is a way to accelerate the adoption of lithium extraction methods that cause less impact to the environment, while increasing domestic supply of the metal. Both are major concerns of the Biden Administration.

Currently, most lithium used in EV batteries is mined and processed outside of the U.S., and that is expected to be a major disadvantage when it comes to producing EV battery cells domestically. GM said it is investing “multi millions” of dollars into CTR, which plans to extract lithium from the Salton Sea Geothermal Field in Imperial, California.

As Fuels Market News Magazine notes in its summer 2021 cover story, “China controls 80% of the chemical production of battery grade raw materials (think refining the oil industry); 61% of cathodes and 86% of anodes (battery components); and 73% of finished lithium-ion batteries.”

GM’s initiative will help the automaker avoid a scenario in which it is heavily reliant on international suppliers for EV lithium batteries.

GM will have first rights on lithium produced by the first stage of the project, plus an option for a multiyear deal going forward if the extraction process is successful. The first stage of the project, dubbed “Hell’s Kitchen,” is expected to yield lithium starting in 2024 and help GM meet its plan of eliminating tailpipe emissions from light-duty vehicles by 2035, officials said.

CTR’s lithium extraction process includes a closed-loop, direct extraction process that results in a smaller physical footprint, no production tailing and lower carbon dioxide emissions as compared with traditional processes, such as pit mining or evaporation ponds, according to GM.