Batteries no image

Published on October 13th, 2008 | by Karen Pease

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Lithium Counterpoint: No Shortage For Electric Cars

Editor’s Note: This post is a response to Anthony Cefali’s recent article “Where We’re Going We Won’t Even Need Lithium: A Neurotic Look at Our Energy Future.”

Lithium carbonate powder

Recently, fellow Gas 2.0 author Anthony Cefali wrote an excellent post questioning the sustainability of lithium-ion batteries into the future due to concerns over the supply of lithium.

In this world, it’s easy to argue that one can never be too neurotic about our future, as our species has repeatedly shown a lack of foresight into the consequences of its actions. However, in this case, I must argue against his views on lithium’s sustainability. Lithium-ion batteries will only be superceded by superior technology, not by lithium shortage.

Anthony’s primary concern is that while we have gone through resources in a manner of exhausting one source and then finding another one, that this cannot be considered a reliable way to produce resources. Indeed, he is correct on the history of humankind’s interaction with natural resources.

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Southern Arizona is dotted with copper mines of almost unfathomable scale, gaping holes in the ground bored to extract copper in hundreds of parts-per-million quantities. Yet natives in parts of the midwest hammered tools out of “native copper“, found in sizable nuggets in pure form just sitting on the ground around Lake Superior.

The purest deposits of any resource are incredibly rare. The next best are an order of magnitude more common, and the next best an order of magnitude more common still, and so forth. The poorest deposits make up most of the 50-68 ppm copper that composes the Earth’s crust. Yet the lithosphere alone — the uppermost layer of the Earth’s crust — is about 10^21 kilograms, which means about 60,000,000,000,000 (60 trillion) metric tonnes of copper.

In short, the upper limit on most mineral resources is, for all practical purposes, unbounded, and more importantly, the scaling factor on such resources is toward geometric growth of reserves. That is, to say, if you double the price, you don’t double the amount of available resource — you 5x, 10x, 20x, 100x it. If you halve the production cost due to advancing technology, again, you don’t double the reserves; you increase it by orders of magnitude. The scaling factors are thus greatly biased in favor of continuing production, as was demonstrated in the Simon-Ehrlich Wager.

This is the great lie of reserves figures; reserves figures for a resource reflect only upon the amount of that resource that can be produced at current prices with current technology. This applies to virtually any resource. If you were in Namibia in the 1980s and were only willing to pay a tenth of a penny per gallon for water, there wouldn’t be much I could have sold you. But if you had been willing to pay several cents a gallon, I could have sold you all the oceans in the world’s worth due to desalination. And today, thanks to advancing technology, I could do that for half a penny per gallon or less.

Let’s get back to lithium. First off, what you should know about lithium is that it’s not actually rare. In the crust, it’s more common than lead, which everyone knows from ever-common lead-acid batteries. Furthermore, it’s concentrated, largely in salt flats. Certain salt flats are richer than others, but rare is a completely lithium-deficient playa. Lithium is so cheap and easy to produce that lithium carbonate (the primary traded form) costs only about $8 per kilogram. This is up significantly from $4.50 per kilogram just a few years ago, but is still so cheap that almost as much is used in lithium greases as is used in our billions-of-cells-per-year lithium ion battery industry.

So, right off the bat, you automatically have the ability to displace less profitable uses of lithium — greases, polymers, air conditioning, lithium-aluminum, glasses, and various others — which make up almost 80% of world lithium consumption. But even with the recent “spike” to current lithium carbonate prices, we can already witness the expansion of lithium reserves.

Older reserves figures don’t include, for example, the Kings Valley in Nevada, a mine that’s now expected to produce 25 billion pounds of lithium carbonate. That’s what many “peak lithium” advocates claim the world’s entire reserves of lithium comprise because they don’t include the deposit at all, despite the fact that 173 boreholes to a depth of 40 meters over 80,000 acres determined an average lithium content of 0.279% and a commercial recovery factor of 85%. This is just one mine we’re talking about, and that’s enough lithium carbonate to produce the cells for almost 800 million 10kWh (Aptera-sized) battery packs.

And that brings us to yet another issue: the fact that lithium ion batteries, despite the name, just really don’t use that much lithium. About 1.4 kilograms of lithium carbonate are needed per kilowatt hour of lithium-ion batteries. A kilowatt hour of bulk lithium ion batteries costs $300 to $500. Hence, lithium carbonate costs only make up 1/30th to 1/50th the cost of the cells! The price could increase tenfold and you’d barely notice the difference.

The most expensive element in traditional lithium ion batteries is actually the cobalt in their cathode, which generally makes up about 60% of the cost of a lithium-ion battery (most of the rest being amortization of capital costs). Yet many modern “automotive” li-ion batteries, such as lithium iron phosphate or the magnesium-based spinel batteries, ditch cobalt in its entirety. Hence, the long-range price trend for lithium ion batteries is downward.

I did, however, save the kicker for last. You see, lithium naturally likes to form water-soluble salts; hence, it’s the 11th most common element in the ocean. It’s even more common there than phosphorus, which is so common it’s one of the essential ingredients for all life. Yes, producing lithum carbonate from seawater isn’t $4.50/kg cheap, or even $8/kg cheap. But even with first-generation technology, it’s only $22-$32/kg cheap — still easily cheap enough for lithium-ion batteries.

Almost all of the world’s 1,400,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilogram hydrosphere is ocean; multiplying by 0.170 ppm yields 238,000,000,000,000 kilograms of pure lithium. Since lithium only makes up about 19% of lithium carbonate (LiCO3), that’s about 1,270,000,000,000,000 kilograms of lithium carbonate, which is enough to make enough 10kWh packs to power 91,000,000,000,000 (91 trillion) Aptera-type vehicles or enough 50kWh packs to power 18,000,000,000,000 (18 trillion) Tesla-type vehicles.

So, while due diligence is always required for our natural resources, lithium is going nowhere, at least as far as li-ion batteries are concerned.

Photo credit: Martin Walker (released into the public domain)

Further reading: Lithium in Abundance by Bill Moore. EVWorld, April 15th, 2008.




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About the Author

Karen is a software developer who spends her spare time developing tools to advance green technologies -- EV charger databases, solar power economics calculators, EV/PHEV simulators, etc. She can be reached by email or by phone: karen@rechargeamerica.net 319-337-8815



  • Anthony Cefali

    Karen,

    Great article! I actually support electric cars more than the other alternatives (I tried to be satirical, I think I just came off as uneducated). The point of my article was that we can never be 100% sure with any alternative. There will always be one drawback to every single resource that we ever use, so we should use them efficiently. I do tend to worry about things that I shouldn’t worry about (why should I shower if the sun is going to burn out?), so I thought I’d get it out. Thanks for actually doing research and writing the well thought out, statistically significant article that I could not produce.

    I’ve also never had nearly as much traffic on any other post. I’m glad that we had a debate and hopefully there will be another soon.

    ~anthony

  • Karen Pease

    Thanks for the comments. I actually agree with your main premise — that we must always be cautious to the effects of our actions, that the laws of unintended consequences are quite real, and that we should never put all our eggs in one basket. I just felt it important to shed some more light on the particular case of lithium production.

    Keep up the good work!

  • michael Bryant

    I never knew that Lithium was that comman.

  • michael Bryant

    I never knew that Lithium was that comman.

  • michael Bryant

    I never knew that Lithium was that comman.

  • michael Bryant

    I never knew that Lithium was that comman.

  • Jerry

    Just saw a news that a Chinese car manufacturer introduced a new solar panel car for 30,000 RMB, which is less than $5000, ere is a link, sorry it’s in Chinese, but you can see the picture of it.

    http://news.wenxuecity.com/messages/200810/news-gb2312-719207.html

  • Jerry

    Just saw a news that a Chinese car manufacturer introduced a new solar panel car for 30,000 RMB, which is less than $5000, ere is a link, sorry it’s in Chinese, but you can see the picture of it.

    http://news.wenxuecity.com/messages/200810/news-gb2312-719207.html

  • http://www.worldlithium.com R. Keith Evans

    please also read my 2 articles in http://www.worldlithium.com

    FYI: There will be an Industrial Minerals conference LSM 09 – Lithium Supply and Markets 2009, in Santiago, Chile, January 26-28th

  • http://www.worldlithium.com R. Keith Evans

    please also read my 2 articles in http://www.worldlithium.com

    FYI: There will be an Industrial Minerals conference LSM 09 – Lithium Supply and Markets 2009, in Santiago, Chile, January 26-28th

  • namyzarc

    You forgot to mention that Lithium ion batteries can be recycled. It may not make much economical sense to do it, but from a materials, environmental social (and moral?) perspective, it is certainly feasable & can help reduce the amount of lithium & other metals that are used in the manufacture of the batteries.

  • namyzarc

    You forgot to mention that Lithium ion batteries can be recycled. It may not make much economical sense to do it, but from a materials, environmental social (and moral?) perspective, it is certainly feasable & can help reduce the amount of lithium & other metals that are used in the manufacture of the batteries.

  • namyzarc

    You forgot to mention that Lithium ion batteries can be recycled. It may not make much economical sense to do it, but from a materials, environmental social (and moral?) perspective, it is certainly feasable & can help reduce the amount of lithium & other metals that are used in the manufacture of the batteries.

  • jeffhre

    Anthony you wrote:

    “While I sincerely hope that we can establish an electric infrastructure, it appears that the market…”

    Ive gotta wonder, where exactly do you plug in your electric water-pik? Maybe I was born so long ago that memory fails me, but don’t we already have an “electric infrastructure”?

  • jeffhre

    Anthony you wrote:

    “While I sincerely hope that we can establish an electric infrastructure, it appears that the market…”

    Ive gotta wonder, where exactly do you plug in your electric water-pik? Maybe I was born so long ago that memory fails me, but don’t we already have an “electric infrastructure”?

  • jeffhre

    Anthony you wrote:

    “While I sincerely hope that we can establish an electric infrastructure, it appears that the market…”

    Ive gotta wonder, where exactly do you plug in your electric water-pik? Maybe I was born so long ago that memory fails me, but don’t we already have an “electric infrastructure”?

  • John Hair

    I watched a program aired on Dish Satelite a few months ago called “Who Killed the Electric Car?” The producer’s claim that Bush’s Admnstn. assisted in removing the EV1 vehicle from the state of California, also removing the enviromental bill that was in effect at the time the car was remoithved from that state. The progam also lincluded an inventor of whom I cannot recall, but this gentleman designed a battery that would extend the range of this car up to

    300 miles w/o recharging, Gen. Mtrs. now own the patent and thus far have not and will not put into production until they are forced to by the demand of the people, that’s us ain’t it!

  • John Hair

    I watched a program aired on Dish Satelite a few months ago called “Who Killed the Electric Car?” The producer’s claim that Bush’s Admnstn. assisted in removing the EV1 vehicle from the state of California, also removing the enviromental bill that was in effect at the time the car was remoithved from that state. The progam also lincluded an inventor of whom I cannot recall, but this gentleman designed a battery that would extend the range of this car up to

    300 miles w/o recharging, Gen. Mtrs. now own the patent and thus far have not and will not put into production until they are forced to by the demand of the people, that’s us ain’t it!

  • John Hair

    I watched a program aired on Dish Satelite a few months ago called “Who Killed the Electric Car?” The producer’s claim that Bush’s Admnstn. assisted in removing the EV1 vehicle from the state of California, also removing the enviromental bill that was in effect at the time the car was remoithved from that state. The progam also lincluded an inventor of whom I cannot recall, but this gentleman designed a battery that would extend the range of this car up to

    300 miles w/o recharging, Gen. Mtrs. now own the patent and thus far have not and will not put into production until they are forced to by the demand of the people, that’s us ain’t it!

  • John Hair

    I watched a program aired on Dish Satelite a few months ago called “Who Killed the Electric Car?” The producer’s claim that Bush’s Admnstn. assisted in removing the EV1 vehicle from the state of California, also removing the enviromental bill that was in effect at the time the car was remoithved from that state. The progam also lincluded an inventor of whom I cannot recall, but this gentleman designed a battery that would extend the range of this car up to

    300 miles w/o recharging, Gen. Mtrs. now own the patent and thus far have not and will not put into production until they are forced to by the demand of the people, that’s us ain’t it!

  • ziv

    I wish Kings Valley was a little further along, there will be several battery types developed but it seems that Li-Ion will be the best choice in the short term. And who knows, maybe Eestor will actually deliver an ultra cap that works!

  • ziv

    I wish Kings Valley was a little further along, there will be several battery types developed but it seems that Li-Ion will be the best choice in the short term. And who knows, maybe Eestor will actually deliver an ultra cap that works!

  • ziv

    I wish Kings Valley was a little further along, there will be several battery types developed but it seems that Li-Ion will be the best choice in the short term. And who knows, maybe Eestor will actually deliver an ultra cap that works!

  • Alan Larson

    Actually, lead in batteries is also recycled, and has been for some years. Neither lead or lithium is likely to be a shortage for battery production, or an environmental problem as such.

    As for the claim that the Bush administration removed the CALIFORNIA electric car requirements is simply nonsense. The California Air Resources Board backed off on their requirements in favor of hybrid vehicles.

    We still don’t have practical batteries at a practical price, but perhaps someday we can have electric cars (with batteries included) at lower cost than inexpensive gasoline cars. Then people will start to pay attention.

  • Alan Larson

    Actually, lead in batteries is also recycled, and has been for some years. Neither lead or lithium is likely to be a shortage for battery production, or an environmental problem as such.

    As for the claim that the Bush administration removed the CALIFORNIA electric car requirements is simply nonsense. The California Air Resources Board backed off on their requirements in favor of hybrid vehicles.

    We still don’t have practical batteries at a practical price, but perhaps someday we can have electric cars (with batteries included) at lower cost than inexpensive gasoline cars. Then people will start to pay attention.

  • Alan Larson

    Actually, lead in batteries is also recycled, and has been for some years. Neither lead or lithium is likely to be a shortage for battery production, or an environmental problem as such.

    As for the claim that the Bush administration removed the CALIFORNIA electric car requirements is simply nonsense. The California Air Resources Board backed off on their requirements in favor of hybrid vehicles.

    We still don’t have practical batteries at a practical price, but perhaps someday we can have electric cars (with batteries included) at lower cost than inexpensive gasoline cars. Then people will start to pay attention.

  • Elliot

    (John Hair said on October 17th, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    “Gen. Mtrs. now own the patent(EV1) and thus far have not and will not put into production until they are forced to by the demand of the people, that’s us ain’t it!”)

    Well it seems the demand was always there John but GM couldnt change its post war V8 business policy. Which explains why GM has been losing so much money that Deutsche Bank announced on the 11/11/08 that in the condition GM is currently in they will be forced to file for bankruptcy in the 1st Quarter of 2009, they also gave GM stock a $0 12 month price target.

    Ford and Chrysler are in similar situations.

    Tokyo must be laughing.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/deutsche-bank-cuts-gm-sell/story.aspx?guid=%7BCAFEF63F-017D-42E2-874A-14146A6D20A5%7D&dist=msr_50

  • Elliot

    (John Hair said on October 17th, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    “Gen. Mtrs. now own the patent(EV1) and thus far have not and will not put into production until they are forced to by the demand of the people, that’s us ain’t it!”)

    Well it seems the demand was always there John but GM couldnt change its post war V8 business policy. Which explains why GM has been losing so much money that Deutsche Bank announced on the 11/11/08 that in the condition GM is currently in they will be forced to file for bankruptcy in the 1st Quarter of 2009, they also gave GM stock a $0 12 month price target.

    Ford and Chrysler are in similar situations.

    Tokyo must be laughing.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/deutsche-bank-cuts-gm-sell/story.aspx?guid=%7BCAFEF63F-017D-42E2-874A-14146A6D20A5%7D&dist=msr_50

  • Elliot

    (John Hair said on October 17th, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    “Gen. Mtrs. now own the patent(EV1) and thus far have not and will not put into production until they are forced to by the demand of the people, that’s us ain’t it!”)

    Well it seems the demand was always there John but GM couldnt change its post war V8 business policy. Which explains why GM has been losing so much money that Deutsche Bank announced on the 11/11/08 that in the condition GM is currently in they will be forced to file for bankruptcy in the 1st Quarter of 2009, they also gave GM stock a $0 12 month price target.

    Ford and Chrysler are in similar situations.

    Tokyo must be laughing.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/deutsche-bank-cuts-gm-sell/story.aspx?guid=%7BCAFEF63F-017D-42E2-874A-14146A6D20A5%7D&dist=msr_50

  • Elliot

    (John Hair said on October 17th, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    “Gen. Mtrs. now own the patent(EV1) and thus far have not and will not put into production until they are forced to by the demand of the people, that’s us ain’t it!”)

    Well it seems the demand was always there John but GM couldnt change its post war V8 business policy. Which explains why GM has been losing so much money that Deutsche Bank announced on the 11/11/08 that in the condition GM is currently in they will be forced to file for bankruptcy in the 1st Quarter of 2009, they also gave GM stock a $0 12 month price target.

    Ford and Chrysler are in similar situations.

    Tokyo must be laughing.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/deutsche-bank-cuts-gm-sell/story.aspx?guid=%7BCAFEF63F-017D-42E2-874A-14146A6D20A5%7D&dist=msr_50

  • JamesG

    Well you really can argue anything with stats can’t you? Let’s refocus on common sense instead though. Obviously you can make the same claims about fossil fuels. Indeed fossil fuels also used to lie on or near the surface and were easy to get. With time we went deeper and deeper but still maintained the same rough price until the 70’s oil crunch and now the noughties gas crunch. Then we belatedly realized that volatile potentates controlled vital energy resources and maybe we were damaging our environment a bit too much too. Now we have discovered oil shale and heavy oil in huge amounts – easily enough for several hundred years (we already knew we had coal for several hundred years). Chavez thinks that his heavy oil could be viable at $50/barrel. That we don’t go all out to extract those reserves is partly due to environmental considerations, partly political and partly due to just plain difficulties involved in doing it. These environmental, political, and cost considerations precipitated the quest for an electric car in the first place which has caused the recent lithium boom. So yes you can see the lithium resource business will follow the oil resource business almost exactly. So we will eventually ask the right questions; are these deposits easy to extract, how much does it cost, what is the environmental cost, who controls the supplies and is there a peak lithium curve? Then we’ll perhaps eventually search for the abundant resource we should have been searching for before we became lithium groupies. Indeed we might also properly consider uranium resources too, and if the mad dash for nuclear makes any sense – or are we being conned.

  • JamesG

    Well you really can argue anything with stats can’t you? Let’s refocus on common sense instead though. Obviously you can make the same claims about fossil fuels. Indeed fossil fuels also used to lie on or near the surface and were easy to get. With time we went deeper and deeper but still maintained the same rough price until the 70’s oil crunch and now the noughties gas crunch. Then we belatedly realized that volatile potentates controlled vital energy resources and maybe we were damaging our environment a bit too much too. Now we have discovered oil shale and heavy oil in huge amounts – easily enough for several hundred years (we already knew we had coal for several hundred years). Chavez thinks that his heavy oil could be viable at $50/barrel. That we don’t go all out to extract those reserves is partly due to environmental considerations, partly political and partly due to just plain difficulties involved in doing it. These environmental, political, and cost considerations precipitated the quest for an electric car in the first place which has caused the recent lithium boom. So yes you can see the lithium resource business will follow the oil resource business almost exactly. So we will eventually ask the right questions; are these deposits easy to extract, how much does it cost, what is the environmental cost, who controls the supplies and is there a peak lithium curve? Then we’ll perhaps eventually search for the abundant resource we should have been searching for before we became lithium groupies. Indeed we might also properly consider uranium resources too, and if the mad dash for nuclear makes any sense – or are we being conned.

  • JamesG

    Well you really can argue anything with stats can’t you? Let’s refocus on common sense instead though. Obviously you can make the same claims about fossil fuels. Indeed fossil fuels also used to lie on or near the surface and were easy to get. With time we went deeper and deeper but still maintained the same rough price until the 70’s oil crunch and now the noughties gas crunch. Then we belatedly realized that volatile potentates controlled vital energy resources and maybe we were damaging our environment a bit too much too. Now we have discovered oil shale and heavy oil in huge amounts – easily enough for several hundred years (we already knew we had coal for several hundred years). Chavez thinks that his heavy oil could be viable at $50/barrel. That we don’t go all out to extract those reserves is partly due to environmental considerations, partly political and partly due to just plain difficulties involved in doing it. These environmental, political, and cost considerations precipitated the quest for an electric car in the first place which has caused the recent lithium boom. So yes you can see the lithium resource business will follow the oil resource business almost exactly. So we will eventually ask the right questions; are these deposits easy to extract, how much does it cost, what is the environmental cost, who controls the supplies and is there a peak lithium curve? Then we’ll perhaps eventually search for the abundant resource we should have been searching for before we became lithium groupies. Indeed we might also properly consider uranium resources too, and if the mad dash for nuclear makes any sense – or are we being conned.

  • Dennis Mueller

    It is not the abundance of Lithium that is the issue, it is can it be extracted (and combined with other elements) in a manner such that it does not consume more energy in the total fabrication than would be saved by the higher energy efficiency? (Admittedly if all one considers is oil, it is probably a win, but unless the energy source is not carbon-based, it will do little for pollution issues.) Right now, is would be small comfort to switch from gasoline engines to coal-fired power plants as the energy source.

  • Dennis Mueller

    It is not the abundance of Lithium that is the issue, it is can it be extracted (and combined with other elements) in a manner such that it does not consume more energy in the total fabrication than would be saved by the higher energy efficiency? (Admittedly if all one considers is oil, it is probably a win, but unless the energy source is not carbon-based, it will do little for pollution issues.) Right now, is would be small comfort to switch from gasoline engines to coal-fired power plants as the energy source.

  • KenR

    Dollars per kg aside, according to the link in the article (http://www.seafriends.org.nz/oceano/seawater.htm),

    lithium is the 17th most common element in the ocean, not the 11th.

  • KenR

    Dollars per kg aside, according to the link in the article (http://www.seafriends.org.nz/oceano/seawater.htm),

    lithium is the 17th most common element in the ocean, not the 11th.

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  • John

    Excellent article. One minor point: I think ‘magnesium-‘ should be ‘manganese-based spinel batteries’, although a variety of transition metals and other elements are used to substitute for cobalt in various crystalline structures.

  • John

    Excellent article. One minor point: I think ‘magnesium-‘ should be ‘manganese-based spinel batteries’, although a variety of transition metals and other elements are used to substitute for cobalt in various crystalline structures.

  • John

    Excellent article. One minor point: I think ‘magnesium-‘ should be ‘manganese-based spinel batteries’, although a variety of transition metals and other elements are used to substitute for cobalt in various crystalline structures.

  • Ideal Fallacies

    To Author –

    With that same reasoning I can say that because there are extreme quantities of diamond deposits below Earth’s crust we should mass extract diamond from the mantle without considering the impact it might have on the crust and Earth’s mantle convection…

    An ideal fallacy, for lack of a better word. Don’t mean to be too critical, but you fail to provide a pragmatic argument that would carefully consider unforseable variables arising from such massive exploitation of natural resources (assuming such technology was tangible). Also taking into consideration world population which doubles every 4 decades. Again… don’t mean to sound overtly critical, but you indirectly gave a whole new meaning to the word “exploitation,” with a hint of optimism.

    Good article over all, but do approach counter arguments with realistic/practical considerations. In retrospect, Antoni Cefali had every right to be wary (which is a sign of a healthy mind), but not neurotic.

  • Ideal Fallacies

    To Author –

    With that same reasoning I can say that because there are extreme quantities of diamond deposits below Earth’s crust we should mass extract diamond from the mantle without considering the impact it might have on the crust and Earth’s mantle convection…

    An ideal fallacy, for lack of a better word. Don’t mean to be too critical, but you fail to provide a pragmatic argument that would carefully consider unforseable variables arising from such massive exploitation of natural resources (assuming such technology was tangible). Also taking into consideration world population which doubles every 4 decades. Again… don’t mean to sound overtly critical, but you indirectly gave a whole new meaning to the word “exploitation,” with a hint of optimism.

    Good article over all, but do approach counter arguments with realistic/practical considerations. In retrospect, Antoni Cefali had every right to be wary (which is a sign of a healthy mind), but not neurotic.

  • Ideal Fallacies

    To Author –

    With that same reasoning I can say that because there are extreme quantities of diamond deposits below Earth’s crust we should mass extract diamond from the mantle without considering the impact it might have on the crust and Earth’s mantle convection…

    An ideal fallacy, for lack of a better word. Don’t mean to be too critical, but you fail to provide a pragmatic argument that would carefully consider unforseable variables arising from such massive exploitation of natural resources (assuming such technology was tangible). Also taking into consideration world population which doubles every 4 decades. Again… don’t mean to sound overtly critical, but you indirectly gave a whole new meaning to the word “exploitation,” with a hint of optimism.

    Good article over all, but do approach counter arguments with realistic/practical considerations. In retrospect, Antoni Cefali had every right to be wary (which is a sign of a healthy mind), but not neurotic.

  • John

    Ideal Fallacies – you are deranged. If ‘variables’ are ‘unforeseable’ (sic) I fail to see how anyone can be expected to provide a ‘pragmatic argument’ that would ‘carefully consider’ them.

    Diamonds are totally irrelevant. They exist in much lower concentrations, yet are still economic to extract. Extraction, while it has created some large holes, has no impact whatsoever on ‘mantle and crust convection’, nor is there the remotest risk of this. Diamonds can be manufactured synthetically, and most ‘industrial’ diamonds are now made this way.

    Compared with the other materials required to make a vehicle – more than a ton of steel, aluminum, plastic and rubber – relatively little lithium would be used. A 50kWh battery contains about 13kg of metallic lithium. There is no reason to be unduly concerned about the effect of its extraction. If it were to be extracted from seawater, the only indication would be a processing plant.

    If the world’s population does indeed continue to double every 40 years, we will face many far more pressing problems than finding a supply of lithium for our electric vehicle batteries.

  • John

    Ideal Fallacies – you are deranged. If ‘variables’ are ‘unforeseable’ (sic) I fail to see how anyone can be expected to provide a ‘pragmatic argument’ that would ‘carefully consider’ them.

    Diamonds are totally irrelevant. They exist in much lower concentrations, yet are still economic to extract. Extraction, while it has created some large holes, has no impact whatsoever on ‘mantle and crust convection’, nor is there the remotest risk of this. Diamonds can be manufactured synthetically, and most ‘industrial’ diamonds are now made this way.

    Compared with the other materials required to make a vehicle – more than a ton of steel, aluminum, plastic and rubber – relatively little lithium would be used. A 50kWh battery contains about 13kg of metallic lithium. There is no reason to be unduly concerned about the effect of its extraction. If it were to be extracted from seawater, the only indication would be a processing plant.

    If the world’s population does indeed continue to double every 40 years, we will face many far more pressing problems than finding a supply of lithium for our electric vehicle batteries.

  • John

    Ideal Fallacies – you are deranged. If ‘variables’ are ‘unforeseable’ (sic) I fail to see how anyone can be expected to provide a ‘pragmatic argument’ that would ‘carefully consider’ them.

    Diamonds are totally irrelevant. They exist in much lower concentrations, yet are still economic to extract. Extraction, while it has created some large holes, has no impact whatsoever on ‘mantle and crust convection’, nor is there the remotest risk of this. Diamonds can be manufactured synthetically, and most ‘industrial’ diamonds are now made this way.

    Compared with the other materials required to make a vehicle – more than a ton of steel, aluminum, plastic and rubber – relatively little lithium would be used. A 50kWh battery contains about 13kg of metallic lithium. There is no reason to be unduly concerned about the effect of its extraction. If it were to be extracted from seawater, the only indication would be a processing plant.

    If the world’s population does indeed continue to double every 40 years, we will face many far more pressing problems than finding a supply of lithium for our electric vehicle batteries.

  • Karl

    Why is there no mention of the medicinal use of lithium in patients with bipolar disorder? This may seem “trivial” to car enthousiasts who do not have this disease, but lithium is a very effective means to give these patients a much more stable life, which is not only good for them, but for society.

  • Karl

    Why is there no mention of the medicinal use of lithium in patients with bipolar disorder? This may seem “trivial” to car enthousiasts who do not have this disease, but lithium is a very effective means to give these patients a much more stable life, which is not only good for them, but for society.

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  • http://www.yesonsolar.com fireofenergy

    Thanks for doing the research and the math! I somehow knew that “the lithium shortage” was all made up, so I searched it. Now, this awesome page is a reference for others as PROOF that we can sustain humanity and still save the biosphere from ourselves.
    Also, thanks for mentioning the LiFePO4 battery, the longer lasting lithium based battery.
    I say that we can extract just 1/10th of 1% of the lithium from the oceans to build 18 Billion Tesla electric car type batteries (but hope that it would be in the form of LiFePO4 as they can be charged/discharged faster and have no thermal issues).
    I just want to say… EVERYTHING that humanity needs to save itself… and the “planet” either is already available, or soon shall be due to the scientific method, however, money, that great enabling tool invented thousands of years ago and what became the permeating substance in all the “-isms”…
    is now fast becoming the enabler of our own demise (and the “planet’s”) by virtue of its own success.
    Money has enabled advanced machine automation which will soon displace just about all jobs, globally.
    Thus, the next social system shall be based upon the distribution of (all) resources according to the (here proven) abundance of availability via machine automation and WITHOUT PROFIT.
    Or the next social system will be “just another” dark age… feudal-ism

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Bernal/100000532403856 Robert Bernal

    Very fine post, especially about how a doubling of price (to mine whatever essential element) causes a quadrupling of supply. This is true because the Earth’s crust is essentially an unlimited treasure trove of the ingredients necessary to transition from a fossil fueled economy. The ONLY constraints are of proper (environmentally conscious) extraction techniques and, of course, when or if, the energy expended and costs add up to more than the “profit”.
    Machine automation should take care of that!

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