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This is an interesting article in the Economist from earlier this year discussing the world’s supply and price of Lithium-carbonate salts, the key ingredient for Li-ion batteries such as those going into the new electric vehicles:

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21688386-amid-surge-demand-rechargeable-batteries-companies-are-scrambling-supplies

As discussed in the article, global supplies of Li are limited and Li production is concentrated in a small handful of countries. Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla motors, which is aiming to scale up its production of the Tesla Model 3 to 500,000 cars/year by 2020, has noted that “in order to produce a half million cars per year…we would basically need to absorb the entire world’s lithium-ion production.”  (source)

Li-ion batteries are not the only clean energy technology that rely on increasingly scarce elements.  Fuel cells and electrolyzers – key technologies for a potential Hydrogen economy- currently rely heavily on expensive precious metal catalysts such as Platinum and Iridium.  For this reason, the development of new earth-abundant catalytic and electrode materials for these technologies is of critical importance for renewable energy to reach the terawatt energy scales.

For a more comprehensive discussion on the global supplies and production rates of key elements for renewable energy technologies, this is a nice review article from a few years ago:

Addressing the terawatt challenge: scalability in the supply of chemical elements for renewable energy

RSC Adv., 2012,2, 7933-7947

 

 

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