It is common knowledge that electric vehicles are the biggest trend in the journey towards sustainable living. Tesla’s success in the EV industry has pushed other automotive companies to develop their own versions as well. While the initial price of acquiring an electric car costs a little high, the long-term benefits compensate. When compared to fuel-powered automobiles, the total ownership cost of EVs is proven to be lower.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk understands the price concerns surrounding electric vehicles and is also actively finding ways to make their EVs more affordable to consumers, introducing lease deals on their bestseller, the model Y, changing battery material to reduce manufacturing costs and other marketing strategies that the company disclosed on their webpage.
Lithium is the main component of lithium-ion batteries - the most widely used type of battery in a lot of devices from smartphones to cars. The element is a good conductor of electricity, has a high energy density, and generally easy to acquire.
In order for the global domination of EVs to be a reality, there needs to be a compromise. Lithium supply must increase, and therefore more efforts in production must be exerted to yield six times as many in the next decade. This will be made possible through lithium companies in the United States.
Lithium processing companies in America
Piedmont Lithium Ltd.
Located in the Carolina Lithium Belt in North Carolina, Piedmont started out as a gold mining company, then made the switch in 2009 when prices of lithium spiked. That year, Piedmont acquired around 200 hectares of land. By 2019, the company had 27.9 million tons of lithium in their possession. Piedmont is in talks of building a mine and a chemical processing plant in the area, to produce lithium hydroxide that is the compound used in batteries.
The target is to make 22,000 tons of lithium hydroxide in a year. In that amount of time, Tesla needs 25,000 tons to be able to power a total production of 500,000 electric cars. Now the best-case scenario is that once the mine and plant are operational, Piedmont will be able to produce the lithium material at a minimal cost of $4000. At the average selling price of $12 thousand, this would earn Piedmont a profit of $176 million.
However, prior to all this, the company needs to invest around $600 million to put up the mining and processing facilities. This creates an equal risk and benefit balance for Piedmont Lithium.
Albemarle has just entered into the lithium processing industry in 2014 but has been the number one global supplier of lithium material. The company started off as a bromine and catalyst industry. In 2015, it acquired Rockwood Holdings, then kickstarted its operations on lithium mining. With three sites in Australia, Chile, and Nevada, Albemarle has an annual production of 85,000 tons of lithium. The company also has processing plants in North Carolina and China. Tesla acquires lithium material from Albemarle.
Livent is also one of Tesla’s lithium material. The company was derived from FMC Corporation, a former agricultural company that is now a chemical manufacturer. It has a total of four processing plants, three of which are located in China, and the other one in North Carolina. And with its mining site in Argentina, Livent produces 20,000 tons of lithium compounds.
Lithium Americas is a Canada-based company with a rather unusual approach to lithium processing. Unlike other companies that utilize Spodumene rocks - which only has a 1.1% lithium content - or brine - saltwater rich in lithium deposits - it is currently looking in lithium separation from clay. The company owns a massive lithium-rich mine in Nevada known as the Thacker Pass. The site is close to the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada.