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New electric vehicle battery capacity is cropping up across the U.S. — places like the Hell’s Kitchen Lithium and Power in California’s Imperial Valley where they are planning on extracting lithium from the Salton Sea, and Ion Park, a “pilot facility” where Ford Motors will eventually produce batteries. The Hell’s Kitchen site is a geothermal facility that uses Earth’s natural heat to create electricity and produces minerals such as lithium for the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles in the process with no detrimental environmental impacts. Ion Park is a $185 million battery lab right outside Detroit that is a step toward Ford manufacturing its own battery cells, which will help it compete globally.
Why This Matters: With EV sales expected to increase, particularly given the Biden Administration’s emphasis on their development, lithium is in such high demand that experts refer to it as “white gold.” Companies are buying the raw materials needed to avoid a shortage in the coming years as demand grows. China is the U.S.’ main supplier of lithium, but mining it in other parts of the world is highly destructive — it has to be extracted from hard rocks. For the U.S. automakers to remain competitive, these new efforts are critical.
One of the reasons why is that geothermal lithium is environmentally benign and produces very few carbon emissions. “It’s 100% green,” Colwell says. Other types of lithium are on the other end of the spectrum — extracted from hard rock in places like Canada and Australia. And in South American countries such as Chile and Argentina, it’s concentrated through large evaporation ponds that take up lots of water, but to get it out requires pumping the groundwater out with it and that’s displacing farmers and llama herders in those countries.
Ford Wants To Accelerate Battery Technology
CNBC reported that the Ion Lab facility is intended to accelerate the development of the technologies as the company plans to “eventually manufacture” new battery cells and batteries, according to Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer. Currently, Ford purchases cells from suppliers such as South Korea-based SK Innovation. Thai-Tang told reporters during a media briefing, “It’s really for us to develop that expertise and competency in-house, and give us that flexibility in the future.” The company wants to develop the next generation of lithium-ion batteries — making them safer and better than the cells on the market now. Ford intends to invest $22 billion into vehicle electrification between 2016 and 2025.
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer An Indonesian district court ruled yesterday that Indonesian President Joko Widodo has neglected Jakarta’s residents right to clean air. In a unanimous ruling in favor of the 32 residents who brought the case, the Central Jakarta District Court ordered Widodo, and six other top officials deemed negligent, to improve […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Decreasing air pollution increases people’s life expectancy by an average of 2.2 years, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Chicago found that by bringing pollution across the globe down to the World Health Organization’s guidelines, a collective 17 billion years could be added to the planet’s population’s […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer As the Caldor Fire burns through the El Dorado National Forest, the area around Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada, has developed the worst air quality in the county. On Monday, the Air Quality Index hit 694 in Tahoe City. An AQI above 300 is considered hazardous and can cause serious health issues. The […]
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