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Benchmark: lithium has to scale twenty times by 2050; generational challenge for automakers

The world will need more than twenty times the amount of lithium than was mined last year to meet demand by mid-century, driven by growth in energy storage and electric vehicles, according to new analysis from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

Annual production of 11.2 million tonnes LCE will be needed by 2050 with energy storage making up two-thirds of battery demand by that date, due to the growth of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

The data highlights the challenge of scaling up lithium production from new mining projects, which can take more than five years to bring online. Near-term, a total of 2.9 million tonnes LCE will be needed by 2032, more than the 2.7 million tonnes of cumulative global production of lithium between 2015 and 2022, according to Benchmark’s Lithium Forecast.

The long term path for lithium is set, yet the supply chain scaling challenge has just begun. What this data shows is that we are at just the beginning of a generational challenge, not one that’s going to be solved in the 2020s.

—Simon Moores, chief executive of Benchmark

By 2040, all of the lithium mined last year will only meet one month’s demand, even with the supply from recycled batteries.

Lithium miners and refiners not only have to sensitively scale their supply base within the economics of today and near term future, but they also attempt to plan for a world lithium ion economy that is an order of magnitude bigger than today.

—Simon Moore

Without recycling, we will need 234 new lithium mines by 2050 to meet this staggering demand. Today, Benchmark tracks just 40 mines which produced lithium this year. This highlights how important recycling will be for meeting the lithium demand of the future.

Benchmark forecasts that in 2040, nearly 20% of lithium chemicals will be produced from recycled batteries or process scrap.

In the near term, most recyclable materials will be sourced from process scrap. Though from the mid-2030s onwards an ever increasing majority of material will be sourced from end-of-life batteries.

Leading up to 2050, an increasing number of countries will transition their fleets to EVs. This has been the primary driver of growth in recent years. In 2015, EVs represented just 39% of battery demand increasing to 79% this year, as assessed by Benchmark’s Lithium ion Battery Database.

The US and European Union have both pledged to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while China has set a goal of reaching that date by 2060. As part of that goal, the EU has pledged to ban sales of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2035, while China has said it wants only “new-energy vehicles,” which includes hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles, to be sold by that date.

It’s crucial that legacy OEMs, EV producers, and battery cell makers make the big and at times uncomfortable decisions in investing in long term generational critical minerals supply, especially for lithium. If not, Automakers won’t hit their EVs, governments won’t achieve Net Zero by 2050, and market volatility will be here to stay for much longer.

—Simon Moore

By 2050 Benchmark expects about a third of battery demand will be from EVs and the rest from energy storage.



Using lithium chemistries for stationary energy storage is nuts.

It was to hand, with costs being driven down by its use in volume in cars.

But there are far more abundant and cheaper alternatives where weight is not important, and perhaps for cars too, where it is, of course.

So I am very doubtful about Benchmark's forecasts, which seem to imagine that we will keep doing dumb things indefinitely.


I don't see any problem scaling to x20, given current known litihum resources.
LiFePo4 is right now one of the cheapes and more robust electrochemistries (~$80/kwh), it's only natural it's displacing alternatives. Even lead-acid.

I like having alternatives, but these will enter the market only when they can compete.
What's your problem exactly with lithium?


I agree with Davemart, However most of the exciting, cheaper lithium alternatives for energy storage such as sodium ion, zinc bromide (Gelion), nickle zinc (ZinkFive) and others still haven't been mass produced yet. Hopefully soon. Big advantages in both materials cost, ease of manufacture, material availability and non-flammability over lithium ion.


your selection of alternatives is strange.
Sodium-ion, ok. It probably has a bright future.
Nickel-zinc? Anything based on nickel will have trouble scaling up.
Zinc-bromide? Anything using bromine will have trouble scaling up and probably will be expensive from the start.

Iron (ESS tech, FORM energy) has some posibilities, at least for utilities.


They didn't read about gold hydrogen and sodium batteries and energy domes. This is a stupid study to forget soon.


@: peskanov Iron flow batteries look pretty awesome but like you say for Utilities/ big users. Bromine only costs $5000 per tonne. Zinc bromine batteries can be made in simple low cost repurposed lead acid battery factories rather than more complicated expensive lithium ion factory. Perhaps your right high nickle costs might doom nickle-zinc. Aluminum graphene (GMG) and Aluminium Sulfur (Sadoway's latest) also looking promising.


Imho any battery system (flow or not) based on vanadium or bromine will have a hard time competing with li-ion.

If you read new fresh battery papers from time to time you can see these type of batteries are not researched any more. You will find magnesium-ion, aluminium-ion, potassium-ion or even calcium-ion. Even exotic things like the quinone flow battery.
But rarely anything using bromine or vanadium.


The dismantling is not very ecological and the EV batteries are only conditionally suitable for vehicles after 10 years.
When will there be free replacement batteries or will all EV vehicles have to be scrapped?
How do you see that with the Hummer EV and all the many Teslas?

Have a nice, peaceful and autumnal day everywhere in the world.



Iron batteries have lousy round trip efficiency.

I am not sure why you think that nickel has issues with scaling up, certainly the present mining capacity of nickel at around 2.7 million tons per year dwarfs the 100,000 of lithium at present.

To be clear I have no issues with lithium batteries when used realistically for their prices and capabilities.

Lithium batteries were interesting for road transport, with their high energy to weight..

There is no point using relatively scarce and expensive materials where that is not so important, and there are many alternatives coming to the fore now, including for instance CATL's sodium technologies, compressed CO2 as used by Enerdy Dome and many others.


a copuple of points:

- "Iron" has no low efficiency" per se. Some iron chemistries are low efficiency.
ESS tech claims 75% roundtrip, FORM energy roundstrip is still kept as a secret.
Many energy storage for utilities are under the 50% mark, including hydrogen.

- Nickel has been rising in price for years. Production just can't scale with the demand. Nickel is found in a few deposits (all nickel found in earth's crust comes from meteor origin) and presents strategic problems (Russia). A Lithium NMC battery contains a lot nickel, but only a small quantity of lithium (under 10 KG usually).

- Lithium is not a particularly scarce element, and can be found in every country. It's more abundant than lead (14 ppm), and not that far from nickel (80 ppm). It's just an underdeveloped resource. Lithium production can't follow the demand because demand is growing exponentially.

- The energy dome everybody seems to love so much is a powerpoint. When we see solid results from a real facility we can talk.
Remember the company Isentropic energy and all their promises.


Eventually the shortage problem with Lithium will be solved with the advent of SSDs.
As far as a technological platform is concerned, I'm quite confident that QS is leading the pack worldwide.
More interesting than QS's chemistry solution is that solution which GMG have implemented for their Graphene - Aluminum version.
GMG have tasked Bosch to scale up their coin version to a prismatic format. Incidentally, VW - closely associated with QS - has contracted Bosch for some equipment for their new Giga-Plant being built in "Salzgitter".
It wouldn't be a big surprise for me to see a new product emerging in several years bearing the DNA of the QS and GMG research.


I don't get it. Solid state?
As far as I know, as solid or semi-solid state battery requieres the same quantity of lithium as a normal one. Maybe even more, as the anode is pure lithium metal and usually need a few microns of excess lithium on it.


@peskanov said:

' "Iron" has no low efficiency" per se. Some iron chemistries are low efficiency.
ESS tech claims 75% roundtrip'

You are in the right of it. My memory played me false.


' The energy dome everybody seems to love so much is a powerpoint. '

Nope. It is a facility built in Sardinia from standard industrial components, with others en train:

' Italian startup Energy Dome has now begun to commercialize the world’s first CO2 Battery, which was launched earlier this month in Sardinia, Italy. The battery uses carbon dioxide to store renewable energy on the grid, and Energy Dome says the technology can be quickly deployed anywhere in the world.

June 28 update: Energy Dome today announced that it has secured $11 million in bridge funding, which will enable it to buy equipment for a 20-megawatt/200-megawatt-hour/10-hour duration facility for Italian utility A2A, with which it has a memorandum of understanding.'



Isentropic energy also had a test facility somewhere in the uk. This is fine, but I did not read any data about it, and before any result was published the company tanked.

Other thermodynamic energy storage proposals also reached prototype stage, I remember one using liquid air. In this case, they published roundtrip efficiency. The numbers were appalling...they promised results would be better when scaling to the multimegawatt scale. Now the project seems to be in limbo.

I don't really expect anything different this time. It would be nice but...



As you say, the round trip efficiency of liquid air is low at around 60-75%.

That however has nothing to do with the efficiency of compressing CO2:

' CO2 is the perfect fluid to store energy cost effectively in a closed thermodynamic process as it is one of the few gases that can be condensed and stored as a liquid under pressure at ambient temperature. This allows for high density energy storage without the need to go at extreme cryogenic temperatures.'


So it is a completely different ball game, and without the need for complicated cooling, costs are reduced and round trip efficiencies increased so that they reckon:

' Chief executive Claudio Spadacini tells Recharge that Energy Dome's thermodynamic liquid-CO2 system has a round-trip efficiency of 75-80% — higher than any other long-duration energy storage technology currently on the market, including liquid-air, compressed-air and gravity-based solutions. '


Given that extensive cooling is not needed, that sounds credible to me.


@ peskanov:
"I don't get it. Solid state?"
Switching to SS does not restrict to Li-chemistry. In the case of GMG, they are working with Graphene and Aluminum; both are cheap and more than abundant elements. GMG's chemistry is different from that of QS but the tech. platform of QS is far more attractive.
GMG's coin cells charge 60 times faster than Li-ion. Combining the tech. platform of QS with GMG's chemistry would constitute an unparalleled achievement.

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