Powering the Future

Lithium

Lithium demand continues to grow as the global community strives for a greener future for energy storage.
Andrada Mine Lithium Producer

Overview

Lithium for Green Energy Storage

Lithium (periodic table symbol Li) is the lightest solid metal with a soft, silvery-white colour, low melting point, and high reactivity. Its physical and chemical properties are more similar to alkaline earth metals than to its own group.

Although it is moderately abundant and present in the earth's crust, it does not occur freely in nature.

Uses

The mineral’s compounds have an array of uses. Lithium carbonate, for example, is used in medicine as an antidepressant. A combination of lithium chloride and bromine, on the other hand, absorbs humidity in a wide temperature range and is therefore used in the manufacturing of air conditioning systems.

Furthermore, lithium stearate acts as a thickener for lubricant grease, and various other lithium compounds are used to produce alkaline storage batteries and welding applications. Lithium alloys with aluminium, cadmium, copper, and manganese are also utilised to make high-performance aircraft components.

Ultimately, lithium is most valued for its use in high-energy rechargeable batteries. These batteries represent the fastest-growing industrial demand for lithium and will continue to be influenced by electric transport. Lithium is expected to become more critical for powering all-electric and hybrid vehicles, which will lead to significant growth.

Lithium Periodic Symbol

Lithium mine production can be divided into various mineralogies based on the deposit type and ore body: 

Spodumene

Spodumene is the most commonly produced lithium mineral concentrate, predominantly produced in Australia, China, and Brazil. It is derived largely from pegmatitic intrusive, though it also occurs as an accessory mineral in granitic-type deposits.

Lepidolite

Lepidolite is a lithium mica mineral occurring largely within pegmatitic and granitic-type deposits. Lepidolite concentrates are produced largely in China.

Petalite

Petalite is a lithium mica mineral produced predominantly in Zimbabwe, occurring within pegmatitic and granitic deposit types.

Mining

Supply

Due to lithium's many uses, the market, expressed in terms of volume of lithium carbonate equivalent, is growing by over 15% per year and has more than doubled in value since 2014.

To meet the expected demand for electric vehicles and stationary storage applications, which will drive growth, experts estimate that at least 20 new lithium mines with an average size of 25 ktpa would need to be developed by 2025.

Market

Demand

Battery-grade lithium compounds are expected to be the largest driver for total lithium demand going forward. This type of high-performing batteries was present in the technology roadmaps of most global automakers in 2020 as they could be the key enablers of long-distance driving EV ranges.

In the next several years, Europe plans to build 16 new lithium battery factories to increase its capacity by 300-400 GWh. To that effect, demand for lithium is expected to increase six-fold by 2030 due to the expansion of the battery sector and the adoption of electronic vehicles.

Expected

Outlook

As electronic vehicles become cheaper due to economies of scale, energy density improvements, and increased competition, it is likely that growth in the EV market will continue.

This trend is supported by changing regulations in several key markets, with countries like France and the UK planning to ban fossil fuel vehicles in the future and China requiring manufacturers to significantly increase EV sales.

Lithium demand from the lithium-ion battery industry, particularly in automotive applications, is expected to increase the total lithium demand volume to over 1,2 Mt LCE in 2026, increasing further to 2,8 Mt LCE by 2031.

Leading lithium market consulting firm, SignumBox, predicts that the market will continue to grow at an average of 11,6% per year until 2030. This growth is mainly due to the increasing demand for battery-grade carbonate, hydroxide, and fluoride products from the battery sector.

Lithium Demand in Automotive Market Graph

Demand in Automotive Market: 2020 - 2030 (t Lithium Carbonet Equivalent)

Lithium End Use Demand Graph

End-Use Demand:  2020 - 2030 (t Lithium Carbonet Equivalent)