Piedmont Lithium. The only integrated, low-cost producer of lithium hydroxide in the U.S.
The Pace of Lithium Demand is Electrifying
As the world searches for cleaner sources of energy to help reduce carbon emissions, an opportunity is being created for countries and companies that can answer the call, especially as it relates to transportation.
As companies like Tesla are proving, the demand for electric vehicles (EV) of all kinds is growing rapidly in the U.S. and around the globe. It is projected that by 2030 there will be 245 million electric vehicles around the world, accounting for about 30% of new car sales. But none of this growth will be possible without growth in the production of lithium-ion batteries, and that will require growth in the availability of U.S.-supplied lithium hydroxide.
The adage, “If it can’t be grown it must be mined” serves as a reminder that electric vehicles, energy storage, and a clean economy begin with metals, and in this particular case, they begin with lithium.
All Lithium is not Created Equally. Hydroxide vs Carbonate.
There are two forms of lithium that can be used in electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries, lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide. So, the first question may be, where does lithium come from? Lithium comes from spodumene ore via hard rock mining, or from metallic brines stored in man-made ponds in the high deserts around the world, South America primarily.
Generally speaking, when brine is the source material, water has been pumped into the earth, usually in a very remote location, to create a brine that is captured in storage ponds. Over the course of 18-24 months, in ideal conditions, natural evaporation occurs, and the resulting material is lithium carbonate. Through an additional chemical process, the carbonate can be converted into lithium hydroxide.
The alternative to a brine operation is the hard rock mining of spodumene ore. Once the ore is mined, a concentrate is created where the lithium-infused spodumene is filtered and captured. The concentrate then goes to a nearby chemical processing operation where the hydroxide is produced.
The benefits of spodumene ore are numerous. Its strategic abundance in North America, and North Carolina specifically, creates easier access, and lowers overall production costs across the supply chain. It’s also not subject to weather as a means of production, which allows for greater certainty of supply and control of production.
Why US-Based Lithium? An Opportunity Ready to Happen.
Currently, China controls 83% of the processed lithium needed to produce lithium-ion batteries. They also have a large position in actual battery assembly. Beyond their production dominance, they are heavily invested in sourcing the raw materials required to produce battery-grade lithium. This comes from partnerships with countries and companies in Chile, Argentina, Australia, and several others.
China’s position in the lithium supply chain, coupled with their investment in, and with other countries, creates an unnecessary headwind for the U.S. lithium-ion battery and electric vehicles market. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Today the U.S. contributes less than 2% of the world supply of lithium, even though we hold 17% of global lithium reserves. The creation of a uniquely American electric vehicle supply chain will benefit US workers, the US economy and US producers of lithium-ion batteries, components, and electric vehicles.
Reinventing the current supply chain will create more favorable economics related to accessibility, affordability, and speed-to-market for everyone involved.
Leading researchers have forecast a remarkable increase in the demand for high-purity, battery-grade lithium hydroxide. Lithium Hydroxide Monohydrate is used in the production of cathode material for lithium-ion electric vehicle batteries and is more suitable as it provides the best energy balance.