Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lithium

Once upon a time it was a drug - now it is an energy resource. Lithium batteries are now touted as the earth saver in that all-electric cars are going to stop global warming, reduce dependence on foreign oil, etc. But there is the 800 lb gorilla in the room.

Lithium is another non-renewable energy source, and the US has little. See Mining Information site. Not surprisingly there is an oil connection. Interesting too is that Bolivia and Chile appear to be the major lithium sources. How come poor countries seem to have much needed resources yet their population mass share little in resulting wealth? Another story.

Isn't more research needed before we switch from one nonrenewable resource to another? How about this from Volvo - using the car body as a battery? Isn't it best to explore the potential benefits of alternative fuels as well as the use of hybrid advances?

2 comments:

  1. There is one important difference with Lithium compared to crude. It is not consumed. The batteries will last for 2000 cycles in a car and another 2000 cycles in a stationary energy storage use. Then they can be recycled and made into new batteries again.

    Another advantage that batteries have is that we are not tied to one particular chemistry. Yes, Lithium is the in thing now, but NiMH, Sodium, or Zinc can all be used to make batteries and if Lithium gets too expensive, something will replace it. There is a Portland company called Revolt that is currently working on Zinc-Air batteries for cars.

    Finally, regardless of the battery type, an electrically powered vehicle can be "fueled" by any of the many ways that we generate electricity. This means the price will be more stable and disruptions in one supply will not crush our economy. If electricity gets too expensive, you can install solar panels and make your own.

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  2. I would agree - for the most part - with Patrick's comment. But I would suggest that recycling of lithium or lithium-ion batteries is not necessarily energy efficient. Nor is it cost effective.

    There is even some concerns about the quality of the lithium for use in car batteries, that is, there is already sort of a "peak oil" for lithium.

    Thus, recycling will not necessarily prolong the use of lithium for car batteries.

    An article that raises some interesting questions is Lithium Batteries: Nothing But Illusion.

    Given that it takes energy to make energy - it isn't clear to me that even if all the cars in the world became electric powered with lithium based (or even their alternatives) batteries that the oil consumption or global warming would be significantly reduced.

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