While people and governments around the world struggle with rising fuel prices, one may believe that EVs are a better option. EVs, on the other hand, appear to be dealing with a different issue altogether: growing Lithium prices. The major component of a modern Lithium-ion battery is lithium, and a spike in lithium pricing is concerning for the EV industry. So the question comes, is this the beginning of the end of the lithium batteries or something else?
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla recently tweeted about this problem. The tweet said, “Price of lithium has gone to insane levels! Tesla might have to get into the mining and refining directly at scale unless costs improve.” He also stated that lithium prices have risen several times this year and that the general pattern indicates that lithium prices will continue to grow.
We can say that Tesla is the brand that popularised electric vehicles. Tesla demonstrated to the world that electric vehicles don’t have to be sluggish and ugly, but can also be fast and attractive. Tesla also demonstrated to the world that range anxiety was no longer an issue.
Tesla’s cars are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which is no secret. A Tesla battery pack weighing 1,000 kilograms and producing 70kWh is reported to contain around 63 kg of lithium. Tesla requires 63 tonnes of lithium for every 1,000 of these batteries, which is neither easy nor inexpensive to obtain.
There are only a few lithium mines in the world. The cost of each battery module in Tesla ranges from $5,000 to $7,000. Tesla’s vehicles use four or five modules, bringing the total cost of a new battery to between $20,000 and $35,000.
The cost of these batteries is already outrageous at that point. If the price of lithium continues to rise, Tesla will have no choice but to raise the pricing of its automobiles and other products.
As a result, Elon Musk has stated that the company is thinking about mining and refining lithium on its own.
Tesla could follow in the footsteps of SpaceX. Elon Musk is also the CEO of SpaceX, which has revolutionized space travel by lowering costs. It accomplished this by manufacturing practically all of the components needed for a rocket, reducing imports and reliance on third parties.
Tesla may now have to reduce its reliance on lithium mining businesses to continue producing excellent electric vehicles without drastically increasing their costs.
We’ll have to wait and watch what Tesla does in response to rising lithium prices. However, Elon Musk’s statement has uncovered a flaw in the EV business that has been hurting EVs for a long time.
The Lithium-Ion Battery Problems That EV Manufacturers Face
The fundamental issue is that rare earth minerals are employed in the production of these contemporary batteries. This simply implies that these batteries can only be discovered at particular places on the planet, where mining is already in full swing.
Lithium is simply a small part of the problem. Cobalt and nickel, the other two primary components of a lithium-ion battery, must also be sourced by battery producers. These minerals are also difficult to come by.
When mobile phone makers initially moved to lithium-ion batteries, mining for these rare-earth minerals became popular. Although research on lithium-ion batteries began in the 1960s, it wasn’t until 1990 that Sony began developing and selling rechargeable lithium-ion batteries they became universal.
Other firms quickly followed suit, and before we knew it, lithium-ion batteries were powering all electronic devices. Everything was great until a lithium-ion battery was installed in an electric vehicle. In a modest 5,000mAh battery that powers your smartphone, the amount of lithium, cobalt, and nickel used is virtually minimal.
However, as previously said, the amount of minerals required to power a large 63kWh battery is massive, and things will only grow worse if every automotive manufacturer in the world decides to follow the EV route. The demand for these minerals has risen dramatically in recent years. The numbers pile up, and it’s extremely concerning.
Global lithium-ion battery manufacturing peaked at roughly 20GWh in 2010.
By 2016, the figure had risen to 28GWh, which is still not bad. Then there’s the figure for 2020, which is 767GWh, which is enormous. According to studies and trends, global lithium-ion battery output is estimated to reach over 1,100GWh.
That’s a lot of Li-ion batteries being made, and all of them have to come from a small number of mines throughout the world. As expected, the prices of certain minerals, particularly lithium, will rise as mining costs rise. Moreover, unlike Tesla, hundreds of smaller EV manufacturers are unable to enter the lithium mining industry.
As a result, mining corporations are delving deeper and deeper into the earth’s precious minerals, refineries are operating around the clock to meet the demand for Lithium, Cobalt, and Nickel, and some mines have poor working conditions. More than one labor regulation may have been broken to get these minerals out.
With these considerations in mind, it’s clear that the electric vehicle industry will face more obstacles than just charging infrastructure and range anxiety. There’s a lot to be done if Li-ion-powered electric vehicles are to truly replace internal combustion engines around the world.
Observations On The Issues With Lithium-Ion Batteries
The majority of electric vehicle owners believe they are helping to save the environment. They drive around with a smile on their face, trying to get others to buy an EV as well. However, there’s more going on behind the scenes of the Lithium-ion battery that drives their car or two-wheeler, which few people are aware of.
Will electric vehicles truly be the vehicle of the future? Electric vehicles are almost surely the way of the future. Make no mistake about it: electric vehicles are here to stay, and electricity is the way of the future. The way we store that electricity and utilize it to power automobiles, on the other hand, will undoubtedly alter.
Lithium-ion batteries will be phased out shortly. We don’t know what will replace Lithium-ion batteries, but we do know that experts are working on it. It’s only a matter of time before it happens.