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Faced with the rise in lithium prices, Elon Musk, leader of Tesla, evokes the solution of going to seek “himself” its resources, by embarking on mining extraction. His electric vehicle business is indeed very consuming of this coveted resource. However, the ecological issues that revolve around this industry are complex.
It was on Twitter that the leader of Tesla launched this amazing idea. ” The price of lithium has reached insane levels! Tesla may have to go straight to large-scale mining and refining unless costs improve “, can we read in the comment of a tweet which summarizes the evolution of lithium prices.
The price of lithium has reached insane levels! Tesla may actually have to get into large-scale direct mining and refining unless costs improve.
There is no shortage of the element itself, as lithium is almost everywhere on Earth, but the rate of extraction/refining is slow.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 8, 2022
According to him, ” the element itself is not missing, because lithium is almost everywhere on Earth, but the rate of extraction/refining is slow “. Hence the idea of getting into the mining industry to get its components at the source. It must be said that electric cars, and even more Tesla, are very demanding in lithium. According to a 2020 survey conducted by the media Reporterre, “ while an electric bicycle only contains 300 grams of lithium, a standard electric car requires a minimum of 10 kilograms (kg). A Tesla contains 80 kg of it “.
A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) also showed that in 2020, 79% of lithium demand came from electromobility, all vehicles combined. And it shouldn’t stop there. Given the propensity of the industry to engage in the manufacture and marketing of electric vehicles, this demand is set to increase sharply in the years to come. Tesla cars have also seen their prices increase recently. Elon Musk then spoke, explaining that “ Tesla and SpaceX see significant recent inflationary pressure in raw materials and logistics “.
The French Institute for International and Strategic Relations (Iris), which has published a report on the subject, estimates that 50 million units should be in circulation worldwide by 2025, and 135 million in 2030. Global demand for lithium-ion batteries would therefore be multiplied by ten between 2020 and 2030.
Not so green cars
Is this good news for the planet? Not so sure. It is true that transport is responsible for a significant share of greenhouse gas emissions. This proportion was estimated at 14% in 2010, again according to the report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Faced with this, electric vehicles are often presented as the miracle solution, since they make it possible to move around without emitting the slightest CO². New forms of lithium-ion batteries are regularly developed to constantly improve the range of vehicles or their recharging speed, two points which have long been major weaknesses for electric vehicles.
However, the manufacture of these vehicles “of the future” poses real ecological questions. In particular because it is necessary, precisely, to extract all this lithium necessary for the construction of the batteries. However, the mining industry is not known to be one of the least polluting and most respectful of the environment, as well as of people. If Elon Musk is serious in his words, it is therefore not certain that this announcement is very good news.