The Ford Motor Company is well on the path towards its goal of manufacturing and distributing electric vehicles domestically through a recent agreement to source lithium for its EV batteries from a mining project located in Rhyolite Ridge, Nevada.
Ford’s agreement with ioneer Ltd. is considered one of the first key agreements between a lithium company operating within the United States and a domestic automaker. It is seen as compliance with increasing demands from the US government to reduce reliance on China and other nations for materials necessary to transition to the full use of green energy.
Shipments of lithium to Ford’s battery production facilities are expected to begin towards the end of 2025. By then, ioneer and its development partner Sibanye Stillwater Ltd. will have started its operations at a mine located on federal land around 225 miles north of Las Vegas, NV.
Under the agreement, ioneer is set to supply 7,000 tons of lithium carbonate a year for BlueOvalSK, a joint battery production endeavor between Ford and SK Innovation in Kentucky, over a five-year period.
The aforementioned amount is expected to help Ford manufacture around 175,000 a year. However, it should be noted that the figure depends on how much power an EV model will actually need.
The Way Forward for Localized Production
According to Lisa Drake, Ford’s vice-president for EV industrialization, finding sustainable sources of lithium in the United States will help push the localized production of rechargeable batteries to greater heights as it will no longer be hampered by supply chain issues caused by sourcing raw materials overseas.
For his part, ioneer executive chairman James Callaway expressed optimism that his company will be part of the ongoing drive towards full domestic production of cleaner and greener electric vehicles.
Along with a similar deal with South Korean battery manufacturer Ecopro Co., the Ford deal will make up around two-thirds of ioneer’s projected production of 21,000 tons a year. Callaway added that his company hopes to sell the remainder of its capacity to other companies in the US.
However, environmentalists are raising concerns that lithium mining may lead to the deterioration of the local ecology, particularly the hastened extinction of endangered species within affected areas.
In the first half of the year, relevant US government agencies stated that they would zone off around 910 acres near ioneer’s mining zone to protect Tiehm’s buckwheat, an endangered plant species.
Indeed, the Center for Biological Diversity has called Ford to rethink the agreement with ioneer and source its raw materials elsewhere.