Specialists warn that electrical automobile adoption might gradual because of lithium shortage dangers
According to experts, the surge in electric vehicle (EV) sales in the UK could slow over the next few years due to a global deficit in the lithium needed for car batteries.
As of June, auto giants GM and Stellantis, which own Peugeot Fiat and Citroen, have pledged $ 30 billion (£ 21.6 billion) and $ 35 billion (£ 25.2 billion) in electrification investments over the next four years, respectively.
The core of this strategy, however, is the need to ensure a long-term supply of raw materials, including lithium.
As a result, lithium demand could triple to one million tonnes per year by 2025 and then double again to two million tonnes per year by 2030 – the year Britain plans to ban sales of new gasoline and diesel cars.
The increasing demand for electric cars leads to a lithium shortage (John Walton / PA)
For a typical lithium mine producing 30,000 tons of the chemical per year, that means the market will need about four new mines per year to keep up with demand.
However, experts point out that it takes five to seven years to discover, develop, and operate a lithium mine.
Chris Berry, president of Washington, DC-based strategic metals consultancy House Mountain Partners, warned, “The dramatic pace of electric vehicle sales growth in the UK is in danger of slowing without a clear path to additional supplies of lithium and its associated battery metals . “
He added: “In addition to the sales, UK automakers are risking being left behind by their Chinese, US, German and Japanese auto counterparts who are in a race to ensure their electrical supply chain is in place for the rest of the decade . ”
The UK is one of the fastest growing EV markets in Europe, with plug-in vehicles accounting for 11% of the UK market.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, battery electric vehicle sales rose 186% to 108,000 vehicles.
Mild hybrid electric vehicles grew 184% and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles grew 91%.
However, concerns have been raised in Parliament that the UK’s charging infrastructure needs significant improvements, especially for households with no off-street parking.
Last week, the Transport Committee also told MPs that charging must be fair, as public charging stations are significantly more expensive than home charging tariffs.
The world is accelerating efforts to go green faster than the mining industry is able to sustainably produce battery grade lithium
Ana Cabral-Gardner, Sigma Lithium
In terms of lithium supply, the UK does not currently have a commercial hard rock mining operation and supplies to Europe are expected to be several years from now.
Most of the lithium for UK electric vehicles currently comes from Australia and South America.
Lithium producer Ana Cabral-Gardner, co-chair of Sigma Lithium from Canada, said: “The race is on to meet the growing demand for high quality lithium that is environmentally friendly and inexpensive to produce before a potential deficit for the mineral arises .
“The world is accelerating efforts to become greener than the mining industry is able to sustainably produce battery grade lithium.
“UK consumers want their products to be environmentally friendly from extraction to production to distribution – neither are many mining companies currently able to supply this.”
Scaling the small lithium producing industry will require tens of billions of dollars in capital.
This is likely to lead to a tightening of the lithium market from 2023 to 2024, as lithium demand should grow at an average annual growth rate of 20% until at least the middle of this decade.
Mr Berry added: “The horse is clearly out of the stable and the UK auto industry has recognized that its future lies in successfully electrifying its vehicle fleets.
“The success of this transformation lies in ensuring a secure supply of battery raw materials, including lithium.”