07 Dec 2020, 14:02
Charlotte Nijhuis

E-car battery demand triggers race between two German lithium extraction projects


The demand for lithium, a raw material used for the production of e-car batteries, is set to trigger a race between two new German projects to extract the alkali metal, Susanne Götze reports in Deutschlandfunk. Large quantities of lithium can be found in the old tunnels of the Zinnwald mine, in the Erz Mountains, in the East of the country, the article says. Achim Müller, a chemist and co-founder of solar manufacturer SolarWorld, plans to start construction work for lithium mining there next year. Six million euros have already been invested in the investigation of the project alone. "If we exploit the deposit here in Zinnwald, we will use it in accordance with European environmental and social standards,” Müller says.

Müller's biggest competitor in Germany is a geothermal energy process, developed by researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Western Baden Württemberg. The geologist Jens Grimmer wants to use existing geothermal power plants in the Upper Rhine valley to filter lithium out of the water - a process that has so far only been tested in the laboratory. This process requires hardly any additional energy and is therefore more environmentally friendly than conventional extraction in Germany, or importing lithium from South America. If the pilot proves successful, Grimmer will be able to produce around 1,500 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year with a geothermal power plant, whereas Müller hopes to mine more than 21,000 tonnes in the Erz mountains. Up to 40 kilograms of lithium are required per car battery, depending on the model, the article says. Lithium carbonate has a lithium content of around one fifth.

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