One of the world’s leading automotive companies is gaining ground with regard to claiming its own stake in the booming lithium mining industry. As of Tuesday, April 11th, US automaker General Motors (GM) announced its investment into lithium startup firm EnergyX.
According to the company’s official statement, it is slated to lead a Series B funding round pegged at around $50 million for the startup in order to drive its expansion in both North and South America.
However, the company has made no comment as to how much of the Series B round it will be funding, though it retains the right of first refusal when it comes to buying processed lithium from any of EnergyX’s initiatives.
Driving the Commercialization of Relevant Technologies
GM’s vice-president for global purchasing and supply Jeff Morrison explained that this initiative is in keeping with the company’s commitment to secure critical minerals for EV production in a more sustainable and cost-effective manner.
With this in mind, the investment package will include technical assistance to push forward EnergyX’s commercialization of the direct lithium extraction technology (DLE) it is currently developing.
EnergyX’s DLE could make it easier for GM to filter the metal out of lithium salt-rich waters, particularly those that other mining firms tend to ignore in favor of open-pit mining methods or more conventional evaporation ponds. Indeed, GM executives feel that DLEs could be the most efficient way to extract the mineral out of lithium-rich brine.
If EnergyX’s DLE prototype works, it will be the first successful initiative of its kind in the industry. Previous attempts to develop commercial / industrial-grade DLEs have been done by the likes of Rio Tinto and Lilac Solutions which is being supported by German automaker BMW. However, none of these have been successful.
Investments Into a Nascent Industry
GM’s investment in EnergyX is just the latest in a number of initiatives geared towards ensuring it has its own steady supply of lithium and other key elements for making electric vehicle batteries.
Earlier this year, the automaker became the largest shareholder in Lithium Americas Corporation, the company responsible for the development of the Thacker Pass lithium project in Nevada. GM agreed to pay Lithium America $650 million for the said shares.
Likewise, it also invested in a firm called Controlled Thermal Resources Ltd (CTR) back in 2021. CTR is currently working on the use of DLE technology to develop a geothermal-powered brine extraction project in southern California.