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There was 870 tons of lithium mined in 2019 in the US. That enough for under 20,000 cars, assuming you're using ~50 kg per car. So that would be 40,000 in 2023, assuming all of it is used in cars. In reality only a fraction is; most is used in consumer electronics etc.

The global car production is about 100,000,000 per year, meaning you'd need like 5,000,000 tons of lithium just for cars. Current WORLD production is 77,000 tons, although there's a large reserve.

Proliferation of electric cars is, as far as I can see, completely dependent on a large step forward in battery tech.

  1. What exactly does there's a large reserve entail? How much Li does the "large reserve" contain?

  2. Are these calculations correct?


1 Answer 1


You assume there is X lithium and all of it cost Y. And then there would be no lithium to mine. Thats not quite right. As you are ready to pay more, harder to get sources become profitable and become part of available reserves. Sea has almost unlimited amount of lithium, but it is about x5 as expensive to mine.

The total lithium content of seawater is very large and is estimated as 230 billion tonnes (wiki)

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1 and it's rather simple to leach practically all Li out of old batteries, so on the long run, recycling serves an increasingly big part of the demand, with battery efficiency also increasing. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 8:11
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ Lithium isn't currently the limiting factor in battery tech. Cobalt is really the biggest Li-ion battery issue from a resource standpoint. That's why a lot of current research is focused on developing nickel-rich formulations (which, if successful, would make nickel an even bigger concern than lithium). Of course, this answer is absolutely correct (+1) and the same rationale applies to the other materials. $\endgroup$
    – PGnome
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ @PGnome I think you can go ahead and post that as an additional answer, just add a supporting link which shouldn't be hard. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 21:25

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