Friday, May 20

Billionaires Fund Lithium Extraction to Sustainable Battery Technology

“The global electric vehicle market size is projected to grow from 4,093 thousand units in 2021 to 34,756 thousand units by 2030, at a CAGR of 26.8%.” Source. Growing demand for low emission commuting and tax subsidies for long-range, zero-emission vehicles have spurred manufacturers to go aggressive about lithium mining to produce electric cars and renewable energy.

Backed by market research, as of January 2010, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated the world’s total economically extractable lithium reserves at 9.9×109 kg and potentially economic lithium reserves at 2.55 × 1010 kg, mostly available in the salars of Bolivia and Chile. However, in the U.S., Lithium Americas Corp (NYSE: LAC) got workers digging the clay at Thacker Pass in Nevada.

Extracting lithium from seawater is not economic, although it is a solution to harvest lithium in low quantity. Next, in turn, is to harvest lithium from brine that is cheaper than mining it from spodumene. But, it seems that in the U.S., the electric vehicle manufacturing sector has to either mine spodumene or clay for faster production of lithium in its efforts to contain the U.S.’s dependence on the import of lithium.

Talking about electric car manufacturing, you have Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) in your mind. Why not, particularly after Elon decided to foray into the restaurant business to capitalize on the lag when buyers charge their cars. Anyway, let’s not digress and connect the dots; Elon & Lithium. Elon Musk questioned the purpose of Sophia, but for the upbringing of Tesla, he is one of the largest consumers of lithium, if you notice?

In 2015, a lithium extraction technology startup, Simbol Materials, offered to harvest the mineral-rich brine by the southern shore of the Salton Sea, southeast of Southern California’s Coachella Valley, to help Elon Musk manufacture batteries for Tesla cars. Elon was desperately looking to hunt businesses in lithium extraction, so he offered to buy the startup at $325 million, which fell apart for some reason.

David Snydacker’s Oakland startup, Lilac Solutions, in 2020, closed a funding of $20 million led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures backed by the world’s three of the ten richest people: Microsoft Corp. co-founder Gates, Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Is Mukesh Ambani listening? Maybe as Reliance forays to compete with Uber & Ola, he’ll be the new lithium digger?

San Diego-based EnergySource Minerals is yet another lithium extraction startup company that raised $350 million for Project ATLiS, a development initiative to extract and produce battery-spec lithium products utilizing geothermal brines from the Salton Sea geothermal resource area. The lithium extraction startup will produce lithium products from the smallest land use and lowest carbon footprint in the industry.

2018 born, Austin-based EnergyX, a lithium extraction startup, raised $20 million in May 2021. In a Series A venture round comprising Obsidian Acquisition Partners, Helios Capitals, and the University of Texas, EnergyX is considered the highest valued direct lithium extraction technology company in the market. The company plans to be at the epicenter of the electric car battery manufacturing supply chain.

There are countless lithium mining companies in the world today, but for India, China is the motivation. China contributes to two-thirds of the world’s lithium-ion battery production, evident in China’s investment in mining lithium and rare earth minerals within China and Latin America, Africa, and Australia. So, India has geared up to tap the alternative battery market that won’t burn bridges with global environmentalists.

Backed by Mumbai Angels, Gegadyne is an Indian energy sector startup that manufactures batteries for electric vehicles, consumer electronics, grid storage, and telecom. The batteries use proprietary nano-material composites and advance battery architectures to enable quick charging batteries with high energy density similar to lithium-ion batteries. Gegadyne has pioneered the science of quick charging battery technology through a portfolio of international patents.

Although lithium-ion batteries were born to an important technology war against climate change, it is the same environmental concern that will drown the future of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy. In this regard, Toyota’s (NYSE: TM) experiment with plugging cars with Hydrogen fuel cells will eventually become more sustainable as hydrogen byproducts in water and is much energy efficient.

We are also looking at U.K.-based sodium-ion battery technology startup Faradion using salt. Faradion is already a world leader in non-aqueous sodium-ion cell technology that provides cheaper, cleaner energy. Their patented chemical technology delivers high-performance, safe and cost-effective battery solutions for transportation, storage, power backup, and energy in remote locations. We love it, as they say, “Providing lithium-ion performance at lead-acid prices.”

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