Lithium-ion batteries have become the standard for most electronics. Therefore, the demand for lithium has closely followed the skyrocketing implementation of electronics in everyday life. In lithium production, Australia is the largest producer while Chile has the largest reserves. However, these main producers may not be enough as we head into the future.
There is an anticipated 1m metric tons of lithium demanded yet only 814k metric tons supplied in 2050. In order to help meet this demand, Argentina and China have begun lithium production with many more showing future interests. With only 3.6% of lithium in the U.S., the lithium market is likely to be controlled at the international level by the first movers. This forecasted supply deficit is likely driven by lithium-ion batteries, as shown by demand going from 30% demand of total lithium in 2015 to 95% in 2030.
Aside from electronics, e-bikes and electrification of tools are more miscellaneous uses for lithium-ion batteries that help drive lithium demand. Another major strain on the lithium supply is electric vehicles (EV’s), which have become popularized by climate-friendly efforts. EV’s require 8 kilograms of lithium per car, driving the price of lithium up higher. For sustainability, EV’s batteries can be recyclable, depending entirely on the recovery method used. It varies from 0-80% being recycled and it is estimated around 6% of total lithium utilized will be recycled in 2030.
Ultimately, lithium is likely to be an essential part of the future, but resolving the forecasted shortage is just as vital to powering the future.