General Motors has agreed to form a strategic investment and commercial collaboration with Controlled Thermal Resources to secure local and low-cost lithium, the company announced in a press release on July 2.
This lithium will be produced through a closed-loop, direct extraction process that results in a smaller physical footprint, no production tailing and lower carbon dioxide emissions when compared to traditional processes like pit mining or evaporation ponds.
Lithium is a metal crucial to GM's plans to make more affordable, higher mileage electric vehicles.
The relationship between GM and CTR is expected to accelerate the adoption of lithium extraction methods that cause less effects on the environment. Much of GM's future battery-grade lithium hydroxide and carbonate could come from CTR's Hell's Kitchen Lithium and Power development in the Salton Sea Geothermal Field, in Imperial, Calif. With the help of GM's investment, CTR's closed-loop, direct extraction process will recover lithium from geothermal brine.
As an anticipated part of its $35 billion global commitment to EVs and autonomous vehicles, GM will be the first company to make a multi-million dollar investment in CTR's Hell's Kitchen project. As the first investor, GM will have first rights on lithium produced by the first stage of the Hell's Kitchen project, including an option for a multi-year relationship.
"Lithium is critical to battery production today and will only become more important as consumer adoption of EVs increases, and we accelerate towards our all-electric future," said Doug Parks, GM executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain. "By securing and localizing the lithium supply chain in the U.S., we're helping ensure our ability to make powerful, affordable, high mileage EVs while also helping to mitigate environmental impact and bring more low-cost lithium to the market as a whole. GM looks forward to working with CTR, in addition to state and local leaders, in achieving these goals."
Batteries are and will remain one of the largest cost drivers of EVs. Lithium is a key battery material used in the cathodes and electrolytes of GM EVs like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV. Lithium will become even more important in battery use as GM explores lithium metal batteries with a protected anode.
Most lithium used in lithium-ion batteries is mined and processed outside of the U.S.
The first stage of the Hell's Kitchen project is expected to begin yielding lithium in 2024, helping GM to meet its aspiration of eliminating tailpipe emissions from light-duty vehicles by 2035.