GM’s plan to secure supply of Lithium for all its future EV battery packs
General Motors has announced a strategic investment and cooperation to Controlled Thermal Resources (“CTR”) to get low-cost lithium in the U. S. for the advancement of its next-gen electric vehicle (EV) battery packs.
Last year, General Motors launched its first-generation Ultium Platform, thanks to a joint venture (JV) with LG Chem and the development of the company’s nearly 3-million-square-foot Ultium battery cell manufacturing plant in Ohio. This was followed by the establishment of a second battery production facility in Tennessee, as well as the formation of a new joint venture with SolidEnergy Systems.
Furthermore, with General Motors’ recently announcing capital expenditure in CTR, the renewable energy company will now be able to enable the retrieval of battery-grade lithium hydroxide using more environmentally friendly methods, resulting in lower carbon emissions compared to traditional processes such as pit mining or evaporation ponds.
According to GM, batteries are by far the most expensive component of EVs. Furthermore, lithium is essential for battery production and it will become increasingly significant as EV adoption grows. It is a critical component of the cathodes and electrolytes used during battery manufacture, which has a significant impact on EV pricing. At the moment, the majority of lithium used in batteries comes from countries other than the United States.
The cooperation agreement of the CTR states that the legacy manufacturer will commit to a multi-million dollar investment in the Hell’s Kitchen Lithium & Power development project of the Australian-based mining company. General Motors’ investment in CTR is part of the company’s $35 billion global commitment to EVs and autonomous vehicles by the end of 2025.
With this, the CTR’s efforts to produce lithium from the Salton Sea Geothermal Field in Imperial, California are in place. In reality, General Motors’ investment will help CTR’s closed-loop, direct extraction technique to collect lithium from geothermal brine employing environmentally friendly ways.Following this current agreement, GM intends to contract its lithium supply chain to the U. S. and increase its battery-production operations. As a result, the agreement will contribute to the automaker’s objective of providing additional low-cost lithium to the industry as a whole.
As the first investor in CTR’s Hell’s Kitchen project, the manufacturer will have also priority access to the lithium generated during the first stage of the project, as well as the possibility to expand the partnership to a multi-year agreement. Gowing forward, the automaker will improve its capacity to produce powerful, inexpensive, and high-mileage EVs by guaranteeing and localizing the lithium distribution network in the United States.
Given the lack of full-scale lithium production from geothermal wells in America, as well as the fact that the collaboration will have no immediate benefit for General Motors, the deal is considered a hazardous gamble for the carmaker. Nonetheless, it demonstrates the Detroit automaker’s capacity to think broadly and is expected to start producing lithium by 2024, furthering General Motors’ goal of making its whole fleet of light-duty vehicles zero emissions by 2035.