Lithium from oceans may be great...


But not for the reasons you think.

Without huge quantities of lithium it will be impossible to replace all the internal combustion cars of today with electric ones. That’s why Interesting Engineering (IE) is excited by the news that “We Can Now Harvest Usable Lithium From Seawater” at very low cost.

Lithium from oceans may be great... /img/lithium-batteries.jpg
Lithium batteries for electric cars

This is important because the increasing demand for electric vehicles is “expected to exhaust lithium reserves on land by 2080”. The IE post explains the main technical details of “a new system capable of extracting concentrated lithium from seawater” that would:

  • produce lithium pure enough to be usable in batteries for electric cars
  • consuming only five dollars of electricity per kg of lithium…
  • that would be paid by the chlorine and hydrogen produced as a side effect

That’s not the REAL value of lithium from seawater!

IE says that this is an extremely promising system because, if we ran out of lithium, the plans of car manufacturers to fight climate change by abandoning fossil fuels would never become reality.

IE is wrong. This is an extremely promising system, but not for that reason.

If reality still applies, it is very unlikely that enough cars to exhaust lithium land reserves will be ever produced, due to lack of power grids able to handle them, but also of space consumer interest for mass cars.

Even without mass markets for electric cars, however, the world will still need a lot of batteries, that is of lithium, to electrify everything. And the real reason why affordable lithium from seawater would be good is the same why micro nuclear reactors may be good: to make more countries less dependent from others for a resource as critical as lithium.

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