Electric car rollout's ‘dramatic pace’ could slow due to lithium shortages

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This could cause a serious impact on the UK Government’s attempts to electrify the nation. The Government has already pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, with a ban on new hybrid sales in 2035.

But these plans are heavily reliant on a boom in the electric car industry and the relevant infrastructure needed.

Because of the increased demand for electric cars, demand for lithium could triple by 2025 to one million tonnes per year.

Experts are concerned that this dramatic change could be too soon, as a lithium mine takes between five and seven years to discover, develop and put the mine into production.

Chris Berry, president of strategic metals advisory firm House Mountain Partners, warned that global electrification efforts could begin to slow without major investment.

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He said: “The dramatic pace of UK electric vehicle sales growth runs the risk of slowing without a clear pathway to additional supply of lithium and associated battery metals.

“On top of sales, UK auto manufacturers risk being left behind by their Chinese, US, German, and Japanese auto peers who are in a race to ensure they have their electric supply chain in place for the rest of the decade.

“Clearly the horse is out of the barn and the UK auto industry has realised that its future rests with the successful electrification of their vehicle fleets.

“Success with this transformation rests with ensuring a secure supply of battery raw materials including lithium.”

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A typical lithium mine produces around 30,000 tonnes per year, meaning that four new mines would need to be created every year to keep up with demand.

The UK is currently one of the fastest growing electric vehicle markets in Europe, with plug-in vehicles accounting for 11 percent of the UK market.

The sale of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) rose by 186 percent to 108,000 vehicles.

Despite this, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have called on the Government to ensure that EV charging stations are upgraded.

Ana Cabral-Gardner, co-chairman of lithium producer Sigma Lithium, said: “The race is on to meet increasing demand for high-quality lithium that is environmentally produced at a low-cost before a potential deficit for the mineral.

“The world is accelerating efforts to go green faster than the mining industry is able to sustainably produce battery quality lithium.

“UK consumers want their products to be green from extraction to production and distribution – not many mining companies can deliver this right now either.”

It is estimated that expanding the lithium producing industry could require tens of billions of pounds.

This could result in a massive price hike in both lithium and a subsequent increase in price for electric vehicles.



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