Could Inflation End Lithium’s Reign?

July 8, 2022

I keep telling people, “don’t imagine that the batteries of 10 years from now will be the same as those of today.”
Can a graphene battery (above) take a 350 mile charge in 8 minutes? Lithium vulnerable to disruption.


Lithium, the highly reactive silver-white metal that is a crucial ingredient in batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs), is becoming much more expensive – and fast.

In April, as prices hit a record $78,000 a tonne, Tesla CEO Elon Musk floated the idea of the electric carmaker mining and refining the lightweight metal itself due to the “insane” increase in costs.

For governments ranging from China to the European Union that have pledged to phase out combustion engines in the near future, the soaring cost and growing scarcity of the metal raise questions about how they will meet their deadlines, many of which come due as soon as 2035.

With combustion engines accounting for one-quarter of carbon emissions, according to the United Nations, a delay in transitioning away from petrol and diesel cars would deal a serious blow to efforts to reduce carbon emissions and avert the worst effects of climate change.

“As Elon Musk has said, ‘lithium will be the limiting factor,’” Joe Lowry, an expert on the global lithium market and the founder of Global Lithium LLC, told Al Jazeera. “It is very simple math.”

Despite retreating from its April highs, the price of Lithium has jumped more than 600 percent since the start of the year, from about $10,000 per metric tonne in January to $62,000 in June, according to Benchmark Market Intelligence. Citigroup has predicted more “extreme” price hikes on the way.

The soaring prices have been driven by surging demand for light-duty EVs, sales of which doubled to 6.3 million units last year and are projected to hit 26.7 million units by 2030, according to Platts Analytics.

A growing appetite for lithium from manufacturers of energy storage and 5G devices, spacecraft, submarines, and safety and cooling equipment has further put the squeeze on supply. FastMarkets, a commodity price reporting agency, has projected that lithium supplies could altogether collapse relative to demand as soon as 2026.

After years of falling prices, EVs are becoming more expensive, reversing a trend that had the environmentally-friendly vehicles on track to soon be cost competitive against gasoline-powered cars.

Tesla has raised its prices by more than 20 percent since last year, putting its vehicles out of reach of millions of potential buyers.

More ideas below, at least for stationary storage.


8 Responses to “Could Inflation End Lithium’s Reign?”

  1. Somewhat related

    3 Reasons Goldman Sachs Is Wrong About Lithium

    After surging 500% over the past year, lithium prices have doubled again this year in one of the biggest commodity bull runs in recent history thanks to the EV boom.

    But Goldman Sachs is now telling the lithium bulls to slow their roll: according to GS, the lithium bull run is about to reverse and go through into deep correction thanks to an oversupply of the commodity.

    Those lithium stocks I follow, for the most parts also trend lower.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Sustained high lithium prices will increase investment money for lithium extraction plants in places like the Salton Sea.

    [I still think too much lightweight lithium battery tech is wasted piled on slabs when cheaper lower density battery tech is possible.]

  3. jimbills Says:

    New study ignores the point that an ICE Hummer is worse for the environment than an EV Hummer, but suggests that an EV Hummer is worse for the environment than a compact ICE vehicle:

    CarBuzz: New Study Proves Not All EVs Are Kind To The Environment.

    • jimbills Says:

      Not a great source, but poll about EVs still important to be aware of:

      Fox Business: Electric car survey finds this as the biggest reason preventing people from buying them.

    • jimbills Says:

      Latest news on trying to pass climate legislation before November – Manchin is stalling, predictably, running out the clock:
      The New York Times: Manchin, Playing to the Home Crowd, Is Fighting Electric Cars to the End.

    • jimbills Says:

      Today, Manchin pulled the plug on climate legislation – again. Even minimal climate legislative action in the United States has been killed, possibly for at long as a decade – assuming the Republicans capture at least one house in Congress this November.

      Posted here for historical purposes. I believe this exact time in history will be looked back upon as to why nothing happened towards climate action with an at least nominally Democrat-controlled Congress and President.

      • jimbills Says:

        Some insight on the “negotiations”:

        Democrats fumble on the climate crisis again as US suffers consequences of inaction

        Manchin was always going to back out. Anything could have been offered to him and he would still have disagreed with it.

        It should also be said that climate legislation could have advanced if there was even one Republican willing to stand up and join the negotiations.

        This was THE window for the U.S. regarding climate legislation – a Democrat-controlled Congress and Presidency is a very rare event in the U.S., once a decade if that. We’re beyond the point where climate action should be seen as a major priority. It still didn’t happen. It’s a major, historic, and disgraceful failure.

  4. J4Zonian Says:

    1:38 but…..Gas is as bad for climate as coal
    She didn’t specify whether she was talking climate bad or general bad but…gas is as bad for climate as coal. And fracking’s still so new its harms are still just creeping out from under rocks…broken, mangled, tortured rocks…

    For a long time Insects & other arthropods have been considered among the most adaptable critters on the planet, especially to the world we were likely to create. Our inheritors, despite our relentless attempts to…you know…

    “dear boss i was talking with an ant
    the other day
    and he handed me a lot of
    gossip which ants the world around
    are chewing over among themselves

    i pass it on to you
    in the hope that you may relay it to other
    human beings and hurt their feelings with it
    no insect likes human beings
    and if you think you can see why
    the only reason i tolerate you is because
    you seem less human to me than most of them
    here is what the ants are saying
    What The Ants Are Saying archy, 1922

    but here we are on the cusp of archy’s dream…
    and the insectapocalypse is wrecking that along with everyone else’s.
    Hard times for the bugzapper- and spraymakers;
    The opposite of the roman punishment called decimation is happening on the windshields—10 times fewer deaths.

    2:13 For years I’ve been hearing that the breakthrough point for EVs to be as cheap as “equivalent” ICEVS is $100/KWh.

    Huh? #1 EVs are so much better in every way I don’t know what the FRGOK they mean by equivalent but OK.

    Huh? #2: Now suddenly they gotta get to ⅕th the price? Is she talkin about somethin else or is this a vast shadowy conspiracy by FF corporations to well you know…

    Somewhere I read recently—IIRC—that raising lithium (or battery?) prices 50% would result in a 3% increase in EV prices. Seemed about right.

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