Benchmark: Lithium has to scale 20 times by 2050; Generation Challenge for Automakers



According to the latest analysis by Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, the world will need 20 times more lithium than it did last year to meet demand by the middle of the century.

By 2050, an annual production of 11.2 Mt of LCE will be required, and by then, as renewables like wind and solar power will account for two thirds of batteries.

The figures highlight the challenge of expanding lithium production from new mining projects, which could take up to five years to come online. According to Benchmark's Lithium Forecast, in the near term, 2.9 million tons of LCE will be required by 2032, up from 2.7 million tons of combined global lithium production from 2015 to 2022.

By 2040, the amount of lithium mined last year will be enough to satisfy only one month's supply, even if it is made from recycled batteries.

In the absence of recycling, 234 new lithium mines will be required by 2050 to satisfy this staggering demand. Today, Benchmark tracks just 40 mines which produced lithium this year. This underlines the importance of recycling in meeting future lithium demand.

Benchmark estimates that by 2040, almost 20 per cent of lithium chemicals will be made from recycled batteries or process waste.

In the short term, the majority of recyclables will come from process waste. Although from the mid-2030s onwards an ever increasing majority of material will be sourced from end-of-life batteries.

By 2050, more and more countries will switch to electric vehicles. This has been the main driver of growth in recent years. In 2015, EVs represented just 39% of battery demand increasing to 79% this year, according to Benchmark's Lithium-Ion Battery Database.

The United States and the European Union have committed themselves to net zero GHG emissions by 2050, and China's target is 2060. To achieve this, the European Union has promised to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2035, while China says it wants only "new energy cars", including hybrids and fuel-cell cars, to go on sale by then.

By 2050, Benchmark expects about a third of battery demand will be from electric vehicles and the remainder from energy storage.


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