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As lithium mining capability lags, millions of electric vehicles can face development delays starting in 2027

According to a Rystad Energy report, the electric cars’ international market share is expected to grow so rapidly that battery producers would be unable to satisfy supply demands. The explanation for this is that unless new mines are built, lithium mining capability — the main component in EV batteries — would fall short of demand. Capacity shortages could increase by three times lithium prices by the end of the decade if current trends continue.

Although today’s lithium mining capability is sufficient to meet demand from the electric vehicle industry, electric vehicles’ rapid growth is expected to result in a significant lithium supply shortage by 2027. This disparity will widen with time, causing delays in the manufacture of millions of electric passenger vehicles, even as proposed new mining ventures ramp up capacity in the near future.

More investment decisions to construct new lithium mining projects must be made quickly. Rystad Energy reports that developing, financing, and building a new project takes between five to seven years on average. In reality, focused on our present lithium mining ability forecast and the portion of the lithium market which electric passenger vehicles would produce, we expect that the supply gap would cause the output of the equivalent of about 3.3 million electric cars with a battery capability of 75 kilowatt-hours (kWh) to be delayed as early as 2027.

The effect will rise rapidly, with about 9 million electric vehicles sold in 2028 and around 20 million in 2030. “Electric car suppliers are facing a significant disturbance. Even though there is plenty of lithium in the field to mine, current and proposed developments would not be enough to satisfy demand. “The energy transformation of road transport may want to slow down if further mining ventures are not connected to the pipeline quickly,” stated James Ley. He serves as the senior vice president in charge of Rystad Energy’s Energy Metals unit.

The predicted lithium mining ability shortages would threaten the manufacturing lines of other vehicles that would be entirely or partially electrified and include batteries, such as buses, vans, and hybrid cars, in addition to the electric passenger vehicles. The transportation and aviation sectors, as well as grid storage, would be affected by lithium shortage.

While lithium-ion isn’t the only battery technology available, it is far superior in electric vehicle applications and will not be replaced this decade. And if other developments emerge later, lithium would almost certainly be used, but in reduced quantities. Lithium is the lightest element that can be used in batteries, and replacing it with anything new will lower energy efficiency, resulting in EV range reduction. Except for lithium mining potential for non-battery uses, including glass and ceramics, the residual lithium output capacity in 2021, which can be used to make batteries for all applications, is around 520,000 tons of the lithium carbonate equivalent each year.

This post was originally published on Downey Magazine