15 Jul 2021, 13:55
Benjamin Wehrmann

E-car boom spells trouble for secure lithium supply – German-Canadian supplier


The rapid increase in e-car purchases in Germany and other countries could thwart existing calculations for the industry supply of lithium, a key raw material for the construction of e-car batteries, Stefan Krause, manager at the Canadian-German lithium producer Rock Tech Lithium, told business newspaper Handelsblatt. "Lithium will become a scarce resource for the e-car industry," Krause said. The former finance director of carmaker BMW said most car companies would still have been sceptical of the e-cars’ breakthrough as recently as two or three years ago. "But 2020 has been a turning point. This was partly due to the pandemic," Krause argued, adding that last year had seen an unprecedented surge in investors' interest in the lithium market. "Not all producers have realised the situation yet," he said, explaining that carmakers would have to compete with battery producers or smartphone and other IT equipment manufacturers. "Our new economy bets on batteries. But setting this up to an industrial scale is no mean feat and we will most certainly see a lithium shortage," Krause said.

The technological changes needed to implement international climate policy targets is leading to a simultaneous shift in resource demand patterns, with many raw materials like lithium, cobalt or copper seeing rapid demand increases that can lead to supply shortages and production stops. Earlier this year, the European car industry already experienced a severe shortage of semiconductors that led to a reduction in production volumes. To avoid future supply problems and minimise the impact of mining activities to fuel the green economy with more raw materials, researchers, industry and environmentalists alike are calling for a quick and comprehensive revamp of European recycling capacities to keep available materials in use as long as possible.

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