Uncertain Future of American Lithium: A Perspective until 2050

Barbara Reck, Thomas E. Graedel and 2 other contributors

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    During the 20th century, the United States went from being the largest producer and user of lithium to being heavily reliant on imports from Asia, particularly lithium-ion batteries. To explore different futures for U.S. lithium, we here generate four scenarios─including COVID-19 implications─that model lithium use for its main applications: electric and hybrid vehicles, stationary energy storage systems, and small electronics. We find that the “Sustainable Future” scenario requires the highest amount of lithium (cumulatively 1281 Gg in the period 2020–2050, peak inflow in 2040 at 53 Gg); in contrast, “Fossil Fuel Everything” requires only 500 Gg and peaks in 2050 at 26 Gg. COVID-19 implications appear to be negligible in the long run. The future electrification of the U.S. vehicle fleet and energy storage systems will depend upon a reliable and resilient international supply chain of lithium chemicals and/or batteries as well as vigorous recycling efforts.