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Lithium is the non-renewable mineral that makes renewable energy possible – will it become the next oil?
The shift to renewables is chugging along at a record-breaking pace. In 2018, they made up 26.2 percent of total energy production, and that’s expected to rise dramatically over the next several decades.
At the core of the renewable fuel and climate discussion is an equally important discussion about the future of sustainable transportation. Internal combustion engine or ICE cars may have reached their peak of efficiency, and even when efficient, they still let out harmful gasses into the environment.
Leading the charge for alternative means to power cars are electric vehicles, powered by batteries. Batteries have become central to our daily lives, not just in our cars, but also in our laptops, our phones, practically everything at this point. All these batteries require something that isn’t exactly commonplace or easily sourced though: lithium.
Lithium-ion batteries, or even just lithium-based batteries in general, are drastically more efficient and sustainable than any other battery technique when you factor in cost to the calculation. They also have significant energy density compared to cost-effective alternatives, which makes them perfect for all our devices, and for our electric cars.
But sourcing the massive amount of lithium needed to keep up all this battery production is actually quite environmentally damaging. In fact, if the infrastructure of sourcing and mining these minerals goes unchecked, it will be verging on an environmental disaster.
How and where lithium is mined
Over 50 percent of the entire world’s lithium reserves are found in the “lithium triangle” in South America. This area covers Argentina, Bolivia and Chile and it’s one of the driest places on earth – which is an issue.