Lithium is making it back into the headlines. The mad rush for it has been likened to the California Gold Rush of the 19th century.
Rather than benefiting individual miners, this “white gold rush” stands to benefit the world as it makes a necessary shift towards green and sustainable power sources. Indeed, the price of lithium has soared by nearly 500% over the past several years. As a result, ations are rushing to find larger, more sustainable sources for this particular mineral.
But that said, what does the lithium rush mean for the common consumer? Should ordinary people be pleased or peeved with the new gold rush?
The Use of Lithium in Everyday Living
You may not be aware of it, but lithium has a pretty constant role to play in our daily lives.
In industrial terms, lithium is commonly used in manufacturing ceramics, pharmaceuticals (particularly mood-stabilizing medications), and lubricants. But most of us encounter the material daily as it is the core material for the batteries powering just about everything from our mobile devices and laptops to electric vehicles plying the world’s streets.
Lithium became the material of choice for battery manufacturing as it is extremely lightweight and has high electrochemical potential.
Indeed, thanks to many governments’ initiatives to decarbonize their economies, the sale of electric vehicles doubled last year. The numbers have continued to rise throughout this year as consumers consider alternatives to traditional gas-guzzling cars, trucks, and SUVs. But environmental safety isn’t the only thing that has propelled the popularity of EVs; the fact that these are both easy to maintain and use significantly less fuel is also a major come-on to ordinary consumers.
According to McKinsey & Co.’s EV Battery Materials Research Group head Ken Hoffman, automotive companies have been quick to embrace lithium-centric green technologies as these help them develop smarter, cheaper, and more eco-friendly forms of transportation.
The Issue is the Rising Cost
However, if you’re in the market for an EV, the soaring price of lithium may put you off for a while.
While the average cost of lithium batteries was relatively low for the better part of a decade thanks to issues with the supply chain, experts say that the cost is expected to rise before the end of this year. While the experts are not quite sure how high prices will be jumping, it is the common consensus that they may rise by up to 20%.
However, molecular engineering professor Y. Shirley Meng of the University of Chicago opines that this price hike may only be temporary and should not put off those looking into lithium-powered vehicles.