Mineral Shortages or Glut of EV Batteries? Innovating for the Multi-trillion Prize

There are forecasts that there will shortages of key minerals for EV batteries but there is also a potential glut of LFP batteries. It is also possible that both events happen with a temporary 2 year glut of LFP batteries and a shortage of nickel batteries.

China’s new production capacity for lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cathode materials tripled in the first three quarters of 2022, sparking speculations that an overcapacity crisis may emerge in the second half of 2023 or in 2024, according to supply chain experts. China’s battery makers have invested over $200 billion to build new iron LFP factories and supply chain to supply 2 terawatt hour per year by 2025. There was 300 GWh of EV batteries in 2021 and 600 GWh of EV batteries in 2022.

Substituting New Battery Chemistries and Radically More Efficient Mineral Usage

Iron LFP batteries have surpassed nickel batteries for supplying electric cars and iron LFP uses no nickel or cobalt. Iron LFP completely negates concerns about nickel and cobalt supply impacting ultra high production of EVs.

Tesla is also constantly reducing the wiring needed in electric cars and Elon is targeting eventually getting down to 300 feet of copper wiring for a Model Y.

CATL, the largest battery company in the world, is scaling up Sodium Ion batteries. Sodium Ion batteries would eliminate lithium in all fixed energy storage and some electric cars.

Nextbigfuture has examined CATL sodium ion batteries and CATL ramping plans.

People like Peter Zeihan who predict some kind of simple shortage scenario blocking the electric car revolution and fixed battery storage at massive scale are ignoring that these are rapidly becoming trillion dollar and multi-trillion dollar industries. Tens of billions of dollars every year are going into developing new mines, lithium refining, recycling and battery and EV research and development. It is like saying Apple would run into a roadblack scaling iPhones because of some mineral needed for the current generation of smartphones. Nvidia, Intel and TSMC would not be stopped scaling chip production and fabs because of some mineral limitation. In the science fiction book and Dune movies, they have the quote..”the Spice must flow.” Multi-trillion dollar per year industries will innovate and develop the resources needed to maintain production and growth.

For decades, there were people outside the oil industry who said that we would run out of oil and growth in oil would stop and decline. The oil industry developed deepwater drilling, shale oil production and other technologies and processes to maintain economic production growth. There will be challenges and limits to be overcome. There will be a lot of resources unlocked and innovation to realize the multi-trillion per year by 2030 prize and another ten times by 2040.


A US Congressional Report looks at the critical minerals needed for the high volume electric car future.

Lithium deposits commonly occur in rock formations in minerals (e.g., petalites, lepidolites, spodumene), clays, and in solution in brines (e.g., salars, geothermal systems). According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), lithium is extracted from brines that are pumped from beneath arid sedimentary basins and extracted from granitic pegmatite ores. The leading producer of lithium from brine is Chile, and the leading producer of lithium from pegmatites is Australia. Other potential sources of lithium include clays, geothermal brines, oilfield brines, and zeolites.

Australian company, Ioneer, plans to develop a lithium mine on federal land in Nevada. The mine would produce approximately 20,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate over the expected 26-year mine life. Piedmont Lithium is planning a spodumene mine and lithium hydroxide conversion operation on private land in North Carolina. Piedmont Lithium reports that the combined mine/hydroxide operation would produce 30,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide per year, for 20 years.

Noram Lithium Corporation, a Canadian company, plans to develop a lithium clay mining operation on federal land in Nevada, one mile from the Albemarle operation. The lithium would be processed near the mine site, and annual production of lithium carbonate is expected to be approximately 6,000 metric tons per year, for an initial period of 40 years.

In 2020, the California Energy Commission (CEC) estimated that the subsurface rock in the southern Salton Sea region contained subsurface brine with the potential to supply 40% of the world’s lithium demand and generate over $7 billion in annual revenue. The potential of this region to produce clean energy and lithium is so promising that the CEC set up the Lithium Valley Commission to further investigate opportunities in this area. The United States has the largest known geothermal resource in the world, with an estimated potential to provide up to 10% of the total US electricity capacity.

But geothermal resources at the Salton Sea don’t just offer renewable energy—the brine is full of minerals, including valuable metals like lithium, that could be extracted with the right technologies.

There is a 2021 NREL technoeconomic analysis for the cost of extracting lithium from the Salton Sea and geothermal brines. A review of these projects indicates expected production costs (i.e., operating expenses or OPEX) near $4,000/metric ton of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) and reported internal rates of return suggest this production cost target is economically feasible with estimated prices of ≥$11,000/mt LCE. Many techniques and process strategies have been proposed to extract lithium directly from geothermal and other brines, and these can be generally categorized into adsorption, ion exchange, and solvent extraction techniques. Of these technologies, the ones currently advancing to pilot- and near-commercial-scale demonstrations involve adsorption and ion exchange techniques.

Aluminum Can Replace Copper

A Nextbigfuture reader has noted that Aluminum can replace copper.

15 thoughts on “Mineral Shortages or Glut of EV Batteries? Innovating for the Multi-trillion Prize”

  1. Raw materials for liFePo4 batteries are plentiful, it’s just a matter of lithium mines/wells/refineries coming on line. They will be fine for surface transport if no better chemistry comes along, which is unlikely. Raw materials for Na ion, and Al-S chemistries are practically unlimited, let the grid be load leveled by chemistry!

  2. Brian Wang really needs to get this great analysis out on Youtube as fast as Peter Zeihan puts out anti-EV FUD. Ideally Brian should team up with RethinkX, and have James Arbib or Tony Seba orate (personally I prefer James Arbib speaking).

  3. Brian:
    Do you see much on the development of metal air rechargeable batteries?
    In theory they approach the energy density of liquid hydrocarbons.
    What are the problems that have so far prevented them becoming practical?
    Aside from eliminating range difficulties for electric vehicles, they would greatly reduce the amount of lithium etc. needed for a given storage capacity.

  4. I was thinking about this whole series of articles and getting swept up in the electrification hype as I was driving through Delaware on interstate 95 last night and saw zero electric cars or trucks. I was unable to put comfortable distance between me and a pair of speeding tractor trailers; one was hauling a full load of cars and the other was hauling ~15 telephone poles – exceptionally heavy loads. I did see a UPS box truck that was burning CNG. Maybe things look different in California. Are we experiencing hype yet again?

    Those mines you mention in Nevada don’t seem big enough to mention.

    • Lots of EVs in CA. Of course our weather makes it possible to ignore the impact of cold on EV range. Lots of ID4, Rivians and Fords, occasional Hummer and ubiquitous Model 3/Y.

  5. Good Analysis, extracting Li and Co is not really environmentally friendly , iron and sodium are so abondant and cheap that I don’t see overt kind of batteries being competitive in the future. Aluminum is also a good point , but copper refining is also a source of very rare metal , needed for many applications, total replacement will also bring supply issues

  6. Every graph shows the price of materials increasing from 2021 to 2023. A lot.
    So how is this proof that the battery industry is innovating? I’m confused.

  7. Glut of batteries for the same reason why Paul Ehrlich is wrong about everything. Scarcity creates an environment where ingenuity is rewarded. The most valuable resource is human ingenuity.

  8. Battery hybrid and plug in hybrid vehicles can reduce battery demand more than 3 to 17 times relative to purely battery powered vehicles. And hybrid and plug in hybrid vehicles are much faster to fuel and can use fuels from carbon neutral resources like green methanol.

    Green methanol can be used directly in reformed methanol fuel cells or can be converted into gasoline (green gasoline).

    Green methanol can be produced from urban sewage, agriculture animal waste, the pyrolysis of urban garbage and agricultural crop waste and from nuclear, solar, wind, and hydroelectric power.

    • And then what do we do with the resulting CO2 from the burning of the hydrocarbons? That’s the elephant in the room on this global warming issue. It doesn’t say that the world has run out of oil; it simply says the world can no-longer use oil and gas as usual because of the incredible build up of CO2 causing serious climate changes, hence the need for climate neutral tech.

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