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Lithium outlook bright with auto electrification

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Lithium outlook bright with auto electrification


By: Reuters
27th October 2009
TEXT SIZE WASHINGTON – Demand for lithium should ramp up over the next decade to produce the lithium-ion batteries needed to power the next generation of electric and electric hybrid vehicles.

"I think that the future of transportation and energy is in electrification and smart grids. For electrification to really take place, you need a number of drivers, and we are seeing these catalysts today in Beijing ... in Washington, in terms of energy independence and 'green' air quality requirements," said Jay Chmelauskas, president of Western Lithium Corp.

"Will it happen? Yes it will, but where is that inflection point? I think it is in the next five to ten years from what we see happening," he said during a panel discussion last week at the Managing Supply Chain Risks for Critical & Strategic Metals conference in Washington.

Light weight, energy efficiency and ability to quickly charge should drive demand from the auto industry for lithium-ion batteries past demand for batteries made from other metals such as lead, nickel and cobalt.

"We are recognizing that lithium is perhaps the Holy Grail of the electric vehicle and variations of the electric vehicle," said David L. Trueman, consulting geologist with Avalon Rare Metals Inc.

The United States produces just 3% of the global lithium supply, but with support from $2-billion in government stimulus, suppliers of the minor metal are betting on a future transportation sector that will run on electric battery technology.

Western Lithium's Chmelauskas said his company's Kings Valley, Nevada deposit could potentially be one of the world's largest strategic, scalable and reliable sources of high-quality lithium carbonate.

"Our vision here is to supply the North American market and to support all of the stimulus funding ... the billions of dollars that are going into the technology, and we believe that the future of lithium and ion batteries in electric cars will certainly bring a lot of opportunities," he said.

Bolivia owns about 50% of the world's lithium deposits at about 5,4-million tons.

As industrialised nations make strides in cutting dependence on fossil fuels and reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses, electrification of automobiles is an inevitable goal.

"In the very long run we have a goal of transportation and mobility all around the world. We are going to have a transportation sector that's electrified, regardless of the sources of electrification," said Yaron Vorona, executive director with the International Lithium Alliance

"It's only a matter of time before all cars are electrified. Lithium is the best electron transport for charging and recharging batteries out there to date.

"If the future is electric ... and it is, the future is probably in lithium."

Edited by: Reuters

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