Volkswagen reveals interesting information regarding demand for lithium batteries. Lithium is expected to have a major increase in the coming years and will be of great concern to us in the current decade.
Next to oil extraction comes the extraction of lithium, a natural element, a raw material that will be of great concern to us in the years to come. But who is this ‘new unknown’ and what should we know about it?
Volkswagen Group releases information on this component of batteries. Lithium is an alkaline metal, the global market of which is growing rapidly. Between 2008 and 2018, the annual quantity in its largest producing countries increased from 25,400 to 85,000 tonnes.
An important factor in the increased demand is its use in batteries of electric vehicles.
With 8 million tonnes, Chile has the largest known lithium reserves in the world, putting it ahead of Australia (2.7 million tonnes), Argentina (2 million tonnes) and China (1 million tonnes). In Europe, Portugal has smaller quantities of valuable raw material.
Total global stocks are estimated at 14 million tonnes. This represents 165 times the production volume of 2018. With 51,000 tonnes in 2018, Australia was by far the most important supplier of lithium – ahead of Chile (16,000 tonnes), China (8,000 tonnes) and Argentina (6,200 tonnes).
This is shown by USGS (United States Geological Survey) data. The above four countries have dominated the market for many years, while Australia has gained a clear lead over Chile in recent years.
There are some critical references to lithium mining from salt deserts. In some areas, locals complain of increasing drought, which for example threatens livestock farming or leads to the destruction of vegetation.
On the expert side it is not yet clear to what extent the drought is related to lithium mining. The fact that no drinking water is required to produce lithium per se is something that is not in dispute.
Volkswagen is working closely with battery suppliers to ensure that sustainable lithium mining is used in the supply chain. Last year, Volkswagen completed an initial Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese company Ganfeng, a lithium supplier.