GM kicked off its Ultium battery project in 2019 with help from LG Chem, opening its own gigafactory in Ohio. This joint venture with LG led to a second battery manufacturing plant in Tennessee, as well as a new joint venture with SolidEnergy Systems (SES).
GM’s collaboration with SES on Li-Metal has already led to 49 granted patents and 45 pending patents, and they aim to lead to “a high capacity pre-production battery by 2023”. To support this effort, the automaker last month announced a $ 35 billion investment in electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, a 75% increase in funds over its initial pledge before the pandemic.
Lithium remains a vital element in the cathodes and electrolytes of electric vehicle batteries, and a huge factor in the end costs of electric vehicles themselves. Currently, most lithium batteries come from outside the United States.
However, with today’s announcement, GM is looking to shorten its lithium supply chain in the United States and continue its efforts in producing batteries to support an upcoming line of electric vehicles.
GM to source lithium from US with help from CTR
In a recent press release, GM announced a strategic collaboration with Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) to secure lithium from the Salton Sea in Southern California. According to the automaker, the lithium will be obtained through a closed-loop extraction process rather than more traditional processes, such as surface mining or evaporation ponds.
This straightforward process allows for a smaller physical footprint, zero residue production and lower carbon dioxide emissions. With GM’s recently announced investment in CTR, the renewable energy developer will be able to accelerate more environmentally friendly methods of extracting battery-grade lithium hydroxide.
In addition, CTR can use the funding to source additional carbonate for future GM batteries from its Hell’s Kitchen geothermal field in the Salton Sea of California.
GM calls “dibs” on CTR’s US lithium supply for batteries
As the first investor in CTR’s Hell’s Kitchen project in the United States, GM obtains the first dibs on any lithium produced in the first stage, with an option to extend the collaboration to a multi-year relationship. GM Executive Vice President, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, Doug Parks said:
Lithium is essential to battery production today and will only become more important as consumer adoption of electric vehicles increases and we accelerate towards our all-electric future. By securing and localizing the lithium supply chain in the United States, we are helping to ensure our ability to manufacture powerful, affordable and high-mileage electric vehicles, while helping to mitigate the environmental impact and save more energy. lithium at low prices in the market as a whole. GM looks forward to working with the CTR, in addition to state and local leaders, to achieve these goals.
GM believes the already vital lithium material will become even more vital in future battery use as the historic automaker explores future lithium metal batteries with a protected anode.
The first stage of CTR’s Hell’s Kitchen project is expected to begin producing lithium sometime in 2024. GM has previously “aspired” to reducing emissions from its entire light vehicle fleet by 2035.
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