GM moves to secure sources of lithium metal in the U.S.

You can’t have an electric car without an expansive battery pack. And you can’t produced the battery pack for a market that buys millions of new vehicles every year without a fixed, reliable source of lithium, the element used in making the batteries. In the highest councils of government, where such things are tracked and debated, lithium is considered a strategic material, in large part because it stands as the lightest metal and the lightest solid element in existence. In today’s world of cars, you really need it. So General Motors has announced a partnership with Controlled Thermal Resources to develop a secure, U.S.-based, closed-loop source of lithium needed for the battery packs of vehicles GM will build as it transitions away from internal-combustion power by 2035.

Lithium is a key ingredient in General Motors’ Ultium battery packs, like this one being tested by GM Validation Engineer Andre Brown at the GM Global Battery Systems Lab Monday, June 28, 2021 on the campus of the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan. (Photo by Steve Fecht for General Motors)

Lithium is the most critical ingredient in GM’s line of Ultium battery packs, like the one shown here being evaluated at the GM Global Battery Systems Lab at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan. Most lithium is currently sourced outside the United States, and stands as the primary cost driver in EV production. The new deal will see GM acquire much of its battery-grade lithium hydroxide and carbonate from Controlled Thermal Resources self-named Hell’s Kitchen Lithium and Power development in the Salton Sea Geothermal Field, located in Imperial, California. The lithium will be extracted from geothemal brine recovered from the huge and highly saline inland sea east of San Diego. Production from the partnership is slated to begin in 2024.

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