Monday Feb 06, 2023

Lithium Shortage Creates Catalyst For Plug Power’s Green Energy Dominance (NASDAQ:PLUG) – Seeking Alpha


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The zero-emission vehicle market is on the verge of a major shakeup as manufacturers catch on that there is not enough lithium in the world to sustain a global market of lithium battery-powered electric vehicles (“EVs”). We have known for some time that lithium is a rare metal, and now the electric battery vehicle market is on the verge of learning just how rare. The amount of lithium in the universe provides the biggest clue. According to astronomers, the Milky Way contains 1,000 solar masses of lithium, which sounds like a lot until you factor in the size of the galaxy-1.5 trillion solar masses. This means lithium makes up considerably less than one one-billionth of the overall mass of our galaxy.

While global demand for lithium is projected to rise from 300,000 tons a year in 2020 to 2 million tons a year by 2030, there is a mere 10 million tons of lithium to be found on Earth’s continents, according to geologists. This means that by 2030, there would be only 5 years of lithium resources left. Some argue lithium is plentiful insofar there is 180 billion tons of it suspended in our planet’s oceans. However, it’s currently cost-prohibitive to extract lithium from ocean water as it is considerably more dilute than that found in the lithium brine pits that are currently being pumped and processed in Chile, Nevada, China, and other lithium hot spots. Even if scientists developed a process to bring the costs of ocean extraction down, if the global demand for lithium continued apace, the ever-increasing rate of extraction would further dilute the remaining lithium, which would make the process increasingly expensive. Very soon, the marketplace would still relinquish lithium to the laws of diminishing returns, so there is really no point to investing in the process. And contrary to popular opinion, merely recycling lithium will not bridge the gap between what the automotive industry would demand and what our planet can provide.

Fig. 1

US Dept of Transportation

In short, lithium batteries are an unsustainable source of energy, paradoxical though this may seem to some environmentally-minded consumers. For this reason, lithium battery-powered vehicles will have to be replaced in the coming years.

Enter Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles

When you were a kid do you remember other kids prophesizing, with bulging eyes, that one day we would all be driving cars powered by water? That day has come. Hydrogen fuel is created by hydrolyzing water to break the hydrogen atoms away from oxygen atoms. In an HFC-powered car, hydrogen gas from a tank is combined with oxygen gas from the surrounding air to produce energy, creating water vapor as a byproduct. While few consumers have even heard of HFC vehicles, before the decade is out there could be millions of them on the roads all over the world as their lithium battery-fueled counterparts fade away, much like DC electrical wiring at the beginning of the century.

Being the most abundant element in the universe, as well as on Earth, hydrogen is a highly sustainable source of fuel. However, since hydrogen atoms contain just one electron which is easily taken up by larger atoms looking to fill in their outer quantum orbits, the element is generally locked up in a …….


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