General Motors will source U.S.-based lithium for its upcoming Ultium electric vehicle battery cells.
The automaker announced today it has formed a strategic investment and commercial collaboration with California-based lithium extraction firm Controlled Thermal Resources, which it says will allow it to secure ” local and low-cost lithium,” for its Ultium battery packs. The lithium will be produced through something called a closed-loop, direct extraction process, which GM says results in a smaller physical footprint, no production tailing and lower carbon dioxide emissions when compared to traditional lithium mining processes like pit mining or evaporation ponds.
GM says its newly formed partnership with CTR is “expected to accelerate the adoption of lithium extraction methods that cause less impact to the environment.” For example, the additional capital from GM will enable CTR to accelerate its efforts in recovering lithium from geothermal brine using its closed-loop, direct extraction process. The majority of the battery-grade lithium hydroxide and carbonate for GM will come from CTR’s own Hell’s Kitchen Lithium and Power development in the Salton Sea Geothermal Field in Imperial, California.
Lithium is a key battery material and is used in the cathodes and electrolytes of all GM EVs, including the recently launched 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV. GM says lithium will become even more important in battery use as it continues to research and develop lithium metal batteries with a protected anode – a design that it will use in its second-generation Ultium battery packs. Obtaining cheaper lithium is crucial to automakers, as batteries are and will remain one of the largest cost drivers of EVs compared to ICE vehicles.
“Lithium is critical to battery production today and will only become more important as consumer adoption of EVs increases, and we accelerate towards our all-electric future,” said GM vice president for purchasing and supply chain, Doug Parks. “By securing and localizing the lithium supply chain in the U.S., we’re helping ensure our ability to make powerful, affordable, high mileage EVs while also helping to mitigate environmental impact and bring more low-cost lithium to the market as a whole.”
The first stage of CTR’s Hell’s Kitchen lithium mining project is expected to begin yielding lithium in 2024.