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Opinion
Liam Denning

Lithium Is in Short Supply — But Probably Not for Long

Given the demand from electric-car makers, suppliers and governments are bound to mine more of it.

Lithium from a Chilean brine pool.

Lithium from a Chilean brine pool.

Photographer: Cristobal Olivares/Bloomberg

A cautionary saying in oil circles about the possibility of peak demand holds that “the stone age didn’t end for a lack of stones.” When it comes to electric vehicles, there is more concern now that the electric age will fizzle for a lack of lithium.

Lithium-ion batteries power smartphones, laptops — and electric vehicles. When I wrote this back in 2016, analysts at Citigroup were speculating about the transformational effect on lithium demand if, in 2020, battery-EV sales were to hit 1 million. As it turned out, more than 2 million were sold that year — and almost 5 million in 2021, not including plug-in hybrids.