For the past few decades, Nirvana has been the major supplier of “Lithium” in America, but now the ’90s grunge band has some serious competition.
North Carolina company, Albemarle, is the world’s largest producer of lithium for electric vehicle (EV) batteries — and the company has recently announced plans for a $1.3 billion lithium processing facility in South Carolina. According to the company’s press release, the “mega-flex” factory will produce diverse lithium feedstock that could potentially support the manufacturing of an estimated 2.4 million EVs each year.
Albemarle also owns the country’s only active lithium mine, Silver Peak, in Nevada. Silver Peak produces over 5,500 tons of lithium carbonate per year, enough to power approximately 80,000 EVs.
The U.S. currently holds just a tiny sliver of the global lithium production pie. Australia, Chile, and China were responsible for roughly 90% of lithium production in 2021, with the U.S. contributing a measly 1%.
“This facility will help increase the production of U.S.-based lithium resources to fuel the clean energy revolution while bringing us closer to our customers as the supply chain is built out in North America,” Albemarle CEO Kent Masters said in a press release.
Albemarle’s new “mega-flex” facility is a mega step for the U.S. in the transition to cleaner energy. If America wants to dominate the global EV market — as we did with the automotive market in the early 1900s — we’ll have to start producing more lithium ourselves.
Unfortunately, the gas-powered cars that ruled the 20th century are taking a toll on the environment. Passenger cars release about 3.3 billion tons of carbon annually, so shifting gears to EVs is critical for cooling the planet.
While producing and driving EVs still negatively impacts the environment — extracting lithium and charging EVs both require dirty energy sources — the impact is far less than their gas-powered counterparts.
The lithium-producing facility is also big news for the local economy. Albemarle estimates the facility will create more than 300 new jobs, and that’s not counting the more than 1,500 construction jobs. It is expected to begin late in 2024.
“Today’s announcement is positively electric news for the Palmetto State,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said in a press statement. “Albemarle’s new facility will be transformative for our state, creating thousands of good-paying jobs in South Carolina, and help[ing] us further our goals of becoming an electric vehicle hub in the United States.”
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