Global Lithium Availability
A Constraint for Electric Vehicles?
Article first published online: 26 JUL 2011
© 2011 by Yale University
Journal of Industrial Ecology
Volume 15, Issue 5, pages 760–775, October 2011
How to Cite
Gruber, P. W., Medina, P. A., Keoleian, G. A., Kesler, S. E., Everson, M. P. and Wallington, T. J. (2011), Global Lithium Availability. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 15: 760–775. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-9290.2011.00359.x
- Issue published online: 5 OCT 2011
- Article first published online: 26 JUL 2011
- electric vehicles (EVs);
- industrial ecology;
- lithium demand;
- lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery;
- mineral resources;
- resource availability
There is disagreement on whether the supply of lithium is adequate to support a future global fleet of electric vehicles. We report a comprehensive analysis of the global lithium resources and compare it to an assessment of global lithium demand from 2010 to 2100 that assumes rapid and widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
Recent estimates of global lithium resources have reached very different conclusions. We compiled data on 103 deposits containing lithium, with an emphasis on the 32 deposits that have a lithium resource of more than 100,000 tonnes each. For each deposit, data were compiled on its location, geologic type, dimensions, and content of lithium as well as current status of production where appropriate. Lithium demand was estimated under the assumption of two different growth scenarios for electric vehicles and other current battery and nonbattery applications.
The global lithium resource is estimated to be about 39 Mt (million tonnes), whereas the highest demand scenario does not exceed 20 Mt for the period 2010 to 2100. We conclude that even with a rapid and widespread adoption of electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries, lithium resources are sufficient to support demand until at least the end of this century.