White Gold for EVs: California lake may hold mammoth reserves of lithium
California's largest lake is being revered as the El Dorado for the global electric vehicle movement. And while the Salton Sea is no mythical area filled with enchantments, it does hide within it a treasure that is proving to be enormously valuable in the fast-changing world of personal and public mobility - Lithium.
Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have published a detailed analysis in which they highlight that the landlocked Salton Sea may have as much as 18 million metric tons of Lithium, enough for batteries for as many as 382 million electric vehicles (EVs).
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Lithium, a soft and silver-white metal, is a crucial component in manufacturing processes for batteries. Lithium-ion batteries have a high energy density and long life cycle which make them ideal for use in EVs which are typically used for a fairly long passage of time. That's the advantage. The challenge? There may not be enough Lithium to make batteries for a world with only EVs. Not unless reserves such as the one discovered in Salton Sea are utilised.
The projected reserves at Salton Sea is extremely crucial because if true, it could propel this one area as the largest source of Lithium anywhere in the world. It will also power the United States to the top of the list of country's with most reserves. At present, the US has around 1 million metric ton of proven reserve whereas Chile with 9.3 million, Australia with 6.2 million, Argentina with 2.7 million and China with 2 million lead the rankings. But Salton Sea potentially holds as much lithium reserves as all of these countries combined.
But what about the environmental impact?
LA Times reports that while extraction processes in Nevada’s Thacker Pass and Utah’s Great Salt Lake have faced criticism for allegedly being bad for wildlife habitats and transgressing sacred Red Indian sites, the Salton Sea may receive the green signal from environmentalists. The focus may well then be on how much of the reserves can be extracted, how much ought to be extracted and by when.