As it stands today, China is the global powerhouse for lithium production, an essential component for electric car batteries. The United States has set its sights on China and hopes to, in the near future, lead production.
Reuters reported Friday that the U.S. government will hold a meeting that will include automakers and top executives from lithium miners to lay out the groundwork for increased lithium production in the U.S. Today, the U.S. is responsible for just 5 percent of global lithium-ion battery production. Meanwhile, China has a strong grasp of the entire supply chain. It produces two-thirds of the world’s lithium-ion batteries for electric cars.
U.S. imports of lithium have doubled since 2014 as automakers, such as Tesla and General Motors, begin to produce more vehicles with battery-electric powertrains. The potential to turn the U.S. into a lithium hub is a massive one.
Experts and analysts consider a handful of proposed lithium mining projects remarkable and they could change the way humans mine the material. They include extracting the metal from clays, bromine, and even oilfield waste. Such processes are not used anywhere else and could create a boom for the U.S. However, the projects lack funding, but are scheduled to begin no later than 2022.
If they do, the U.S. would produce 77,900 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent each year, which would make the country one of the largest producers in the world to better challenge China.
North Dakota Senator John Hoeven and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who make up part of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, plan to champion new legislation to make the permit process for lithium mines easier and quicker. Additionally, the legislation would boost state and federal studies to identify the resources in the U.S. and increase mineral recycling.
Among the automakers that plan to attend the meeting is GM. The automaker did not comment about its participation, however.