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February 12, 2008



Plug-in hybrids, at least, will have a long future unless rapid charging can be both improved and rolled out in a very short space of time. But I imagine hybrids are likely to become serial, with small, well-tuned engines topping up the batteries rather than taking over the drive-train. Much simpler, and lighter.

Good news, but my impatient self wishes they could make more than 2,000 next year ... there are sure to be none that they could sell to me!


I doubt that we have enough lithium to make really significant numbers of plug-in hybrids.
The car companies are putting their resources into battery technologies which use materials which are too uncommon to be able to provide for most cars – notably Lithium, but Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, although nickel has somewhat better availability, would still not be able to provide power for enough cars to make a substantial difference.

Due to this misjudgement we are likely to be severely limited in oil available to get around until at least 2020, when perhaps we can hope that they will have changed to the more suitable zinc-air technology.

Oil from both conventional and unconventional sources such as tar sands are unlikely to be able to cover more than 30% of present volume in the developed world by that date, as demand from China, India and other places is increasing whilst supplies are static, and present exporters are using increasing amounts of their own oil with less availble for export.

I am prepared to argue this case, and it is one held by large numbers of responsible analysts, but for the purposes of the present post we just want to see if electric vehicle and battery technology will dig us out of problems of short supply, first through increasing mileage inplug-in hybrids, and later through all electric vehicles.

As will be seen critical materials for the batteries the car industru is emphasising are in too short supply, and price will be far too high and availability too high.

It appears that the only technology with the right resource base and characteristics such as high capacity is zinc-air.
It is also the only battery alternative with the right characteristics to run heavy lorries and machinery.

Since everything but Lithium is now getting trivial amounts of funding in connection with car battery technology, then that blind alley is going to mean further delay in moving to a electric economy.

With time lags you must surely be talking about 2020 before they can be in widespread use, effectively long after oil is in serious short supply and after it has lead to large reductions in automobile use.

I therefore find it persuasive that major disruption is likely.


So this looks like a 100 mile range with a 20KW/h battery. Pretty nice. I wish they had included an estimated sticker price.

If this car is combined with a 20HP diesel constant-RPM motor, and a small fuel tank, it would make one hell of a versatile plug-in hybrid.


A small, light all electric vehicle may be do-able with Firefly advanced lead-acid technology, combined with ultracapacitors, perhaps.

You might get 40-100miles out of it, and it should do OK for commutes and the shopping, whilst you hire a ICC car on the rare times you need to go further.

The Japanese have been much more interested in all-electric than the plug-in hybrids, and the resource constraints on lithium and nickel as I have argued above and more fully in my blog:
show that this may be a good call - for some strange reason the zinc-air batteries which could really do the job are not under heavy development.


Consumers are going to want the functionality of a PHEV as it can do it all: electric power and high efficiency for short trips plus the ability to make long trips. However a PHEV has the costs of a BEV (batteries) plus the costs of an ICE making it an expensive choice.

I think BEV will expand from niche markets. Hybrids will become standard first in micro forms (like the BMW) and increase in electrification as suitable batteries become available. This leaves PHEV as the last to market.

Chanranshu Pandya

Both the costs of the vehicle and the ultimate disposal charesteristics of thse batteries are important and unless these are known to the customers, one may not go ahead selling them straightaway.
The earlier this information is made known, the better it is.


I'm wondering whether DaveMart might share with us his evidence that lithium is in short or limited supply.

Did not this issue occur to any of the large corporations pursuing lithium technology?


The link I gave in my previous post gives the data on lithium resource availability, that is why I said it was discussed more fully there.

Here is a more direct link:
You do need to click on the pdf there 'The trouble with lithium'

Or even more directly:


It appears that I was in error on my previous post saying that it should be relatively easy to switch to electric run-arounds using lead acid, as that is also resource constrained, at least in the short term:

There seems to be good resources ultimately available, around 1.5 bn tons according to one source, although I would like to see more sources on that:
This is the US Geological Survey, 2002

However, it appears that in the West over 80% of our use is from recycling old batteries, and even given some improvement in resource use by Firefly technology and others, that will hardly allow us to move beyond using batteries just to fire up a car to running either an all-electric vehicle or hybrid on them.

Most new production these days is used by places like China and India, and they have a much smaller base to re-cycle, as industrialisation is recent.
StockHouse.com : KEEP THE LEAD IN

To sum up, even if we have enough resources to switch to a lead-acid battery vehicle technology eventually, we could not ramp up fast enough to supply the need for hybrid or EV batteries anytime soon, hence the easy switch to electric I had argued does not appear possible.


DaveMart: I doubt that we have enough lithium to make really significant numbers of plug-in hybrids.

Numbers please.

Well it turns out that

1- Lithium is the 31st most abundant metal on earth and there are essentially unlimited amount in ocean salts, and salt flats have more than enough for BEVs.

2- A 25 kWh Li-ion battery pack uses minor amounts of lithium.

3- Battery packs are eminently recyclable for their lithium content.

"not enough lithium" is another one of those theories pushed by the peak oil crowds to give credence to the postcolonial mythology that all value is simply in raw materials and not in labor & productivity, capital, manufacturing, IP, technology, know-how, and governance.


DaveMart: Zinc Air is more suitable

What are the energy density and power density of zinc-air? What is cycle life and calendar life? What is internal resistance of a ZA battery?

What is the C factor for ZA? The C factor for a lithium nano-phosphate is 70C or better.

Numbers please.

And then you are counting on major infrastructre where the Zinc compound must be pumped out of a vehicle and replaced by a zinc slurry, and the depleted materials must be chemically processed and recharged. The energy losses are probably huge.

Compare this to simply installing a 25kV 3-phase transformer at the gas station, and you can charge lithium phosphate batteries in a matter of minutes without pumping any materials for reprocessing. The grid-to-wheel loss is no more than 25%.

ZA is DoA IMO and needs huge amount of infrastructure to make it work.


I gave links to all the information behind my doubts - it is unsuitable to post fully here as it is from reports which are many pages long and includes graphs.

These answer all the questions you raise, at least according to those sources I quote.

I am afraid that you really have to do some reading if you want to dispute my conclusions - your own are entirely unsubstantiated or referenced.


It seems to be the assumption of the auto industry that the conversion to PHEV or EV is going to be long and slow. I think many auto execs think it is risky (i.e. what if the public won't buy the product). As long as the transition is slow there is plenty of time to develop alternative battery chemistry. Supposedly Sodium can be used similalry the Lithium.

Of course they are probably still reading CERA (Cambridge Energy Research Associates), and thus discounting the possiblity that peak oil will hit early and hard.


Yeah, I was not much for peak anything, but am sure now that the peak for oil is nowabouts, with a bumpy plateau followed by a fall.

The problem is, other countries like China and India are rapidly expanding their demand, as are the oil exporting nations, which are becoming fewer.

It is just fantastic to think that that demand is going to be met, as the holes just aren't being drilled to do so.

Unconventional resources, although substantial, are also difficult to ramp and are certainly not cheap.

Whilst we are not at peak gas, the EU alone plans to import most of the total projected world increase!

What are the US, China and India going to do if that is the case?

Actually, planning has really proceeded on the assumption that resources will just appear, hence the vast amounts being spent on LNG terminals, and no serious effort has been made to determine if there really are the supplies available.

I still was not persuaded of the case for peak materials, and indeed generally am still not.

Looking at them case by case though, real difficulties in many seem to be a fact of life as again massive new demand from developing countries is coming on line whilst massive new resources are not.

This is especially obvious for some rare minerals, but also applies to others such as lithium, at least in the short term.

If we are as short as I believe on oil, we really want to rapidly start producing a lot of hybrids and EV vehicles.

On that horizon there is no possibility whatsoever of setting up and bringing into large production lithium from sea-water, and more conventional resources simply can't cope with that level of demand.

Lead in the West is largely re-cycled, mainly from car batteries, and even if we increase efficiency through more advanced batteries there is no possibility at all that this supply will be enough to run plug-in or EV vehicles.

New lead is mainly used by the developing world, and they have little to re-cycle and prices are rocketing just trying to keep up with conventional battery demand.

Even if we hypothesised unlimited resources to develop, we simply could not ramp up production fast enough.

Zinc appears to be the only one we could use for relatively short-term demand, but it is not currently emphasised and so the development is not happening, and can't in time it appears.

I certainly did not start from a position of being any sort of doomster, but the figures to me indicate we are in for a very rough ride.

I would be interested in your take on the information I have compiled, Tom , if you have time, to make sure I have not made any mistakes, but the numbers don't look hopeful to me.

All the links are already given.


People please ignore this peak oil doomer troll from TOD boards DaveMart. PHEVs are the answer.


heh - DaveMart

First off, you are making the claim that Zinc-Air is such a great thing. The burden of proof is always on the claimant.

Like you claiming there is a china teacup orbiting the sun somewhere (not enough lithium). And then when I question it, you retort - well show me reference that there is no such teacup out there! There is no way I can prove that a china teacup is not orbiting the sun somewhere.

Second off - All I asked are some benchmark numbers and you should know them. If you don't then why? These numbers don't need links. Just report them. If I dispute them, then I will check the links.

Let me give you the Lithium-phosphate numbers:

Specific Energy: 125 W/kg
Energy Density: 150 W/l
Specific Power: 70C
Cycle life: 6000
Safety: No chance of runaway reaction under automotive conditions.
Recharge time (90%): 10 minutes

If you are unwilling to give out these few benchmark numbers for Zinc-Air, it is because you don't have them and you are trying to obscure the debate.

Numbers please!


AntiDoomer -

ooops, I did not know he was from ToD. ToD people have difficulty with the science and with the business economics.

ToD is a postcolonial lair. Their modus operandi is to rationalize everything to death. There are some good stuff there, but it is heavily oriented towards an agenda - an agenda that partly says value is only in raw materials and the West is out to steal them from the poor 3rd World - and there is so much bias in the air at ToD that it is a waste of time going there. That is why I like this blog.

Better to talk to a few people who can reason empirically, than to talk to a crowd of self-experts who will rationalize anything with selective statistics.


Your ad hominen attack is quite literally beneath contempt and simply shows that you are unable to address the actual issues.
However, for the sake of factual accuracy I would point out for others benefit, not yours, that I was posting here long before visiting TOD.

I have since discovered it has many interesting articles, although I do not always agree with them.

The data on batteries i have found was researched by myself and not found on the pages of TOD.

It should also be pointed out that AntiDoomer also posts there, however to little effect, since his posts are similarly merely attitudinising, not containing any thought or information,


Since it seems that you are unable to navigate to referenced sources I include some of the data you ask for.

Non rechargeable Zinc-air has a Specific energy of 220Wh/kg
Electriacally rechargeable 100-150wh/kg
This is a high figure as the one of the reactants is external to the battery - oxygen from the air.

Fast discharge has been an area of concern with them.
However ultracapacitors have now been coupled with both lead-acid and lithium batteries and would overcome this problem is coupled with zinc-air.

A zinc slurry would enable vehicles to be recharged in 10 minutes.

To recharge a lithium battery in that time would require massive power supplies, for instance to recharge a 10kwh battery in 6 minutes would need a 100kw power supply.
The total power requirements of a service station to do so would require power equivalent to a major industrial facility.

In contrast to projections of lithium batteries costing at best $500Kwh, and the relatively limited abundance of lithium, 21 months production of zinc could power 1 bn vehicles, as against 180 years of present lithium production.

Zinc batteries should be possible for circa $60 Kwh

Zinc's main weakness is poor cycle life under heavy discharge conditions, about 600cycles.

Since it is so cheap it would be possible to overcome this by oversizing the batteries, or alternatively ultracapacitors might be used as was done recently with lead-acid batteries which normally have a poor cycle life for the same reason - the car did 100,000km on the same battery pack as a mild hybrid by this means.

I have posted this as some might feel there was substance to your queries, JDT.

However I will not reply again to you unless you have the minimum courtesy to read the information I have linked, and refrain from crass sneering.

I really don't know what your problem is.

Do grow up.


Dave Mart - not very convincing. I will write it up later.

But meanwhile, the link you provided "Meridian Research" is run by a Muslim called Tahill who is known to be really sore that EVs have the potential to reduce demand for oil. He is trying to drum up demand for oil so that his buddies in Iran and Iraq and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait can charge $100 or $200 per barrel for what practically gushes out of the ground at $2 per barrel cost. That is an obscene 5000% profit margin! And then the postcolonials and ToDers and the Islamists say that the West is "stealing" oil and US invasion of Iraq and the state of Israel is all about "stealing oil" (I suppose by paying $100 for what is $2 worth)!

So Tahill has this mission to show that Lithium does not work, and EVs are a dream.

Well, Tahill's "research" has been debunked over and over again. For example he does not consider all the salt flats in Asia or Africa or all the Lithium in the oceans. Neither does he fully consider Lithium bearing minerals.

It seems only bunch of anti-west postcolonials, postmodern leftists, and Islam lovers take Tahill seriously.

Do grow up. -- I thought you were preaching against ad hominem. What happened?


'Do grow up. -- I thought you were preaching against ad hominem. What happened?'

I was responding in kind to your unpleasant and sneering tone.

Again, you seem in your response to be content to attack the messenger, in this case Tahill, rather than respond constructively to the points made.

his point that you need a multiple of many more times current annual production of lithium to have a substantial impact is anyway undoubtedly true, as is the fact that it would take a much lower multiple of zinc production.

The nickel in NiMiH batteries would also require ten years supply to run all cars - and nickel costs are already high at current demand levels.

As for lithium form oceans and so on, my main suggestion was that lithium production could not respond in a timely fashion to what appear to be imminent severe oil shortages.

Even were it possible, you certainly could not pioneer this and introduce it on a large scale within, say, ten years.

Energy considerations would also be important for lithium from seawater.

The only resource which we can be confident of in this way is uranium, as the rate of energy return is still very positive.

Carl Hage

By chance (actually becaue of DaveMart's Volt posts) I burned a lot of time this morning reading the Meridian (doomsday) report, and the original Argonne (ANL) report.

I don't really buy the sense of doom. Yes, it's true if all cars were converted to Li batteries, then the world reserves would be depleted after some number of generations of cars. But we aren't going to convert 1 billion cars right away.

The ANL report says Therefore, long-term supply should not be a major concern., while the Meridian report says there is insufficient Lithium available in the Earth's crust, almost with the same calculations. In the ANL report, they estimate US Li consumption/year supplies about 6M HEVs. The suppliers of Li2CO3 will need to ramp up to meet HEV/EV needs, so I hope the auto makers are making sure the battery makers are managing thier supply needs with the mines, etc., for 2010 or whatever.

The reality, I believe, is that the Li usage will ramp up slowly enough that production will expand, and initial usage won't tax world reserves. There was a price slump a few years ago, so suppliers are waiting for the market to expand.

The ANL report estimates about $100 of Li2CO3 is needed for a 35kWh EV (Meridian says $200), with current module costs of ~$25K, so even if prices go up 10X, it's nothing. The Cobalt (plus markup) is what makes your flaming Dell batteries expensive, not the Lithium Carbonate. A 5kWh PHEV would use much less Li (and cost less), yet meet quite a lot of the driving needs.

The point that we shouldn't invest only in Li technology is important though. We should invest basic research in Zinc-Air and other technologies, and not just do USABC's project or whatever.

My perspective is that there is no point in arguing about which technology will be used in 2025-2050-- it doesn't matter-- one will be used! All that matters is the near-term $/kWh and kg/kWh, and $ to meet the minimum kW required. Whichever is best will be used.

We are just on the brink of having $/kWh be low enough to make PHEVs and small EVs mainstream practical. Looks like Li titanate/phosphate will be there soon, and then that will open the market. Over the next decade, the Li supplies will be fine, but I'm sure there will be plenty of new startup companies coming out with better technologies-- Ultracaps, Zinc-Air, molten salt, whatever...

There won't be anything tying a car manufacturer to a technology, and they can easily switch. Toyota will swich Prius batteries from NiMH to Li as soon as they are cost effective, and then will replace the Li batteries with whatever better technology comes after that.


Good points, Technofossil.
The results when I looked into availabilities of different resources actually surprised me, as I had thought until a few days ago when the matter was brought to my attention that we could have a fairly smooth transition, with plug-in hybrids based mainly on lithium technology fairly smoothly raising mileage and keeping folk mobile at reasonable cost, so when I looked into it I was concerned that resources sounded pretty tight, and certainly prices for lithium are high even without great use in hybrid cars.

My fall-back position was that even if that was difficult, we could easily produce light electric runarounds based on advanced lead acid batteries, and when I looked into it I was surprised again at how tight lead supplies are.

Like you, I am not really concerned about supplies after around 2025, as I think we will have good answers, either from lithium from the oceans, sodium nickel chloride batteries or my fall-back position of zinc, which I became interested in because it appears certain that there are adequate supplies of anyway, and far from being a doomer I am a the sort of guy who likes to try to figure out a way to make things work one way or another.

I do think that getting from here to there is going to be the tricky part though, and I think demand will be high enough to strain production - ie I think that oil prices will be high enough to make people seek hard for alternatives.

In your last paragraph you say that car makers can easily switch from one technology to another.

I agree that they can switch, but it is not easy and takes time - at minimum, the battery pack and all the electronics needs re-designing, then you have to test and ramp production.

In fields other than NiMiH and Lithium, the research is pretty low-key too, so if we do suppose that oil is expensive and lithium supplies tight, we can't instantly switch to zinc or whatever - it would take 10-15 years to gear up, I would guess, and if the recent posts here on petrol going up to around $6 gal in 2015 and $12 gal in 2020 are about right, we have to get a move on if the economy is not to suffer severely.

Before commenting further though I want to read your link to the Argonne report, which I look forward to with some interest -it's a bit late here to read it properly!


BTW - Tahill, the author of "the lithium sky is falling" is a Conspiracy Theorist.

Tahill denies that the WTC towers were fell by hijacked airliners. Tahill claims that both towers came down due to nuclear explosions!

DaveMart - do you need any further proof that Tahill is a kook? ZnO may be a great technology, but you need more than William Tahill the Muslim conspiracy theorist to back it up.



William Tahill
I have the 19 page PDF article, but could not find it on the web anymore. Here is the preface:

On the 11th September 2001 at 09:59 and 10:28 EDT, two enormous
explosions pulverised to dust the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre
in New York. The 400 metre high towers disintegrated in a volcanic
eruption of dust and rubble before the eyes of the entire world.
The buildings were “smulched into a smouldering pit” where
temperatures remained so hot that soil, concrete and glass continued to
be vaporised for over 6 weeks.
Never before or since in the history of modern construction has a steel
framed building collapsed due to a fire.
In the aftermath of the collapse, a team of US Geological Survey
scientists collected samples of dust from 35 locations in Lower
Manhattan where it came to rest from the enormous pyroclastic dust
cloud that enveloped the city.
In the dust, they found high levels of chemical elements that had no
business being there. Extremely rare and toxic elements. Elements
such as Barium, Strontium, Thorium, Cerium, Lanthanum, Yttrium. Even
some elements that only exist in radioactive form.
These elements are forensic evidence of the event that caused the
disintegration of the towers. They form a distinctive hallmark and
signature of a certain well known chemical process.
Nuclear Fission.
What was the enormous source of energy that caused the destruction of
the WTC? It was not a few thousand gallons of jet fuel. It was not even a
few thousand pounds of conventional explosives. It was a Nuclear
Explosion. Two Nuclear Explosions.
But even more than that, these were not just atomic bombs. The
explosions were caused by the deliberate core meltdown of two
clandestine nuclear reactors buried deep beneath the towers.
ii Ground Zero
The true perpetrators of this heinous act of terrorism must be brought to
justice. Lest we forget, not one person has yet been held to account for
their involvement in this act. Not only were 3,000 people vaporised that
day - thousands of others were subjected to intense radioactive fallout
and the entire population of New York is being callously used as
unwitting guinea pigs in a massive radiation exposure “experiment”.
The existence of these crimes against humanity and the planet must be
exposed and the real perpetrators apprehended.
New York, 9/11/01 was just one in a sequence of these deliberate
radiation exposure crimes. Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq have all been
heavily contaminated with Depleted Uranium weaponry. The very
genetic future of the peoples of these regions is under attack and in
some cases destroyed.
Where will be the next target of this Nuclear Madness if they are not


And who is Tahill blaming for 9/11 ? He is blaming the west for "deliberatly committing radiation crimes and attacking the genetic future of Muslim peoples". In other words, he accuses west of genocide.

When I say that Peak Lithium and Peak Oil people are a bunch of postcolonial douchebags, I have reason to say so.



Concur with your opinion of The Oil Drum. The wonky political agenda stems right from the top i.e. Prof Goose who is a political science specialist.

In real life he is Alex Braithwaite formerly of Colorado State:

but currently back in the home country:



You are once more confusing an argument with some of those who hold it, and in unnecessarily offensive language.

Since your judgement of the the possibility of oil supplies not rising indefinitely into the future and of lithium having some limits, perhaps or perhaps not adequate to our needs, and you insist on evaluating it according to wholly extraneous considerations it seems unlikely that your determinations will be of much interest or value.

BTW, my evaluations of a likely drop in oil supplies are based, initially at least, the thinking of the oil analyst Maxwell, as discussed in this forum here.


Hmm, anyway I believe the essence of my argument is that lithium supplies seem to be fairly tight, and that there are a number of other alternatives which on the basis of resource availability may be better placed for the immediate future.

Since I am arguing that adequate alternatives exist, which include lithium as a part solution if you accept that you can't suddenly and immediately ramp production through the roof, then it is rather hard to see how I am a doomer, as some would seem to be trying to suggest.

It is also rather hard for me to understand how it can be argued that lithium supplies are not fairly limited, at least for the immediate future and in reference to the task of supplanting a substantial fraction of ICC cars.

Of course, you can always argue as Technofossil does that we won't have to anyway, but the facts seem clear, that other technologies would be needed too to replace most ICC cars if we have to within the next 10-15 years.

Jen, writer MembershipMillionaire.com

What I'm really glad to hear are updates. It means that companies are now taking the time to develop these alternative sources of energy for transportation. Maybe we were a little late in recognizing the harmful effects of carbon emissions but it looks like we're on our way to brighter and better future. I only hope that this keeps up.


There are many at TOD who eschew the "Doomer" interpretation and focus only on verifiable data. Much of this data points to an oil shortage in the near future. The "political agenda" consists of raising awareness of energy issues and climate change, and campaigning for reduced dependence on oil - something most people would agree with.

TOD definitely attracts the extreme Doomers and survivalists but that is by no means the only voice represented at TOD.


DaveMart - the last "analyst" that you brought upon us and vouched for his prophecy, Mr. William Tahill, turned out to be a Muslim conspiracy theorist, touting WTC deliberate destruction by American nuclear bombs, and racial genocide of Muslims by Americans - and now he is peddling "Peak Lithium" (and Peak Oil) theory.

Is this other analyst "Maxwell" of the same caliber? Why should I waste my time on Maxwell, when your links are to conspiracy theorists, but you make no effort to filter the kooks?


A lot of the discussion on TOD drives me nuts.
I like a can-do attitude, not old hippies crying woe.
Just the same, a lot of the articles are stimulating, and challenge us to think, if I don't agree with the thesis of the article, why not?

And the basic thesis of peak oil has now moved way, way beyond forums like that to senior figures in many responsible positions.

In fact, it is difficult to see on what the people who say that we are going to be able to ramp production much more base their arguments, and they appear poorly substantiated.

Within the past week or so I also found that resources for batteries were much more limited than I had assumed, as regardless of whether he is a nut in other issues Tahil's basic idea that filling much of the number of batteries we would need to switch to lithium would require a vast ramp of fairly limited supply in the next few years, is correct, whatever could be achieved longer term.


JDT, you continue to adopt an offensive tone, and are obviously unable to look up simple facts, such as an article which was posted here in the last few days, so I refuse to bother with you any more.

Presumably you are so impolite due to your difficulty in arguing with any rationality, but whatever, it is your problem, I can't be bothered with such a sad little man as yourself.

The only place you would survive is on the web.

In real life you are doubtless entirely ignored.


This is what SAFT, a French manufacturer of Lithium Phosphate batteries has to say:

There are few suppliers of lithium in the world — Chile is the main producer — but Ledger said there were unexploited sources outside South America which would ensure enough metal for the rapidly growing hybrid vehicle market.

In 2006, the battery industry consumed 12,000 tonnes of lithium, which represents around a quarter of total output.

“There is plenty of lithium in the world,” she said. “It’s just that there is a huge supply in South America and everyone is getting it from South America.”

New sources could include North America and Russia, she said.


“Even if everything changed to lithium then apparently there is not a problem with supply.”


DaveMart: Presumably you are so impolite due to your difficulty in arguing with any rationality, but whatever, it is your problem, I can't be bothered with such a sad little man as yourself.

The only place you would survive is on the web.

In real life you are doubtless entirely ignored.

And you were the one admonishing AntiDoomer for employing ad hominem? Are all postcolonials, one-dimensional raw-material fetishists like you so hypocritical?

Why don't you deal with the substance of the discussion (peak lithium bunk and ZnO > LiFePO4), and stop telling me what a misfit I am?

Here is a starter: 1 kWh of Li-ion requires about 0.3 kg of lithium element.

A PHEV is 8 kWh or more, and a BEV is 15 kWh or more.

PHEV lithium = 2.4 kg
BEV lithium = 4.5 kg

1 million PHEV/BEV vehicles = 3,500 tons lithium.

Current lithium production = 48,000 tons. If this is doubled - which should not take much effort or technology, then you can build 14,000,000 PHEV/BEV per year.

This number is pretty close to the 50,000,000 annual vehicle production on the globe. Once you build about 300,000,000 BEVs, then recycling of Li packs will make it unnecessary to extensively mine for lithium.

Finally, if you have a problem with shortage of resources or destruction of the habitat, then simply limit human child bearing to 1.5 children a year per couple. Having more than one baby is not a right, but a privilege.


I enjoy the technical information and the debates here with one exception: the personal attacks are really not necessary and detract from the good information being dispensed. Personal attacks are nothing more than ego protection. It is easy to disagree and agree to disagree if one is not convinced by the facts or references without attacking the egos. Having said that, I thank all for the insight and information sharing.


DaveMart, this Zinc-Air does not perform well. Your whole analysis is about how easy it is to mine Zinc in a (poor) country, and that is why Zinc-Air is so superior. Well, there is a lot more to a technology than simply the cost of its raw material. This infatuation with raw materials (which is a form of 3rd worldism) is the worst method of (one-dimensional) analysis, and is peculiar to postcolonials.

FYI, raw materials is not more than a few percentage of the cost of manufacturing a product. For example, a BEV battery pack may cost $7,500 while the Lithium in it is worth only $450. Yes, the other $7,050 was VALUE CREATED by the big bad WESTERN manufacturer who is exploiting the poor country oh so much. But of course only value created by the poor is counted. Any value created by the rich must by necessity be "stolen". What idiocy.

so here it goes:

Specific Energy: ZnO rechargable 125 Wh/kg, Li-Poly 300 Wh/kg, LiFePO4 125 Wh/kg

Specific Power: ZnO "has a problem, needs ultracaps" (what about hill climbing? ultracaps cannot help hill climbing or highway cruising). Where is the number anyways? nLiFePO4: 70C (500 amps per cell or more).

Recharge: Remove zinc slurry, chemically process it, then return to another vehicle -- LOTS of INFRASTRUCTURE. LiFePO4 - plug in prong for 10 minutes.

Cycle life: ZnO 600, nLiFePO4 6,000

Ultracaps - ZnO needs them, LiFePO4 does not need them.

Charge at home: ZnO no - LiFePO4 yes

Safety: ZnO don't know - LiFePO4 safe

Recyclable: ZnO don't know - LiFePO4 yes

grid to wheel efficiency: ZnO (my guess 30%) - LiFePO4 75%

Cooling/heating: ZnO probably - LeFePO4 not needed

Internal resistance: ZnO not supplied - LiFePO4 0.01 ohms.

Hybrid suitability: ZnO cannot be charged fast - LiFePO4 instantaneous recharge.

Energy density: ZnO not supplied, Li 200 Wh/l

Power requirement for LiFePO4 of 100 kW is peanuts. A 25 kV power distribution line you see in the streets can deliver up to 21 MW, or more. If each recharge station needs 600 kW for 6 vehicle simultaneous recharge, then a standard 25 kV electric pole can deliver power for 35 recharge stations (with 6 bays each)! In my city there are only 5 gas stations.


Lad - well said.

But DaveMart is still a postcolonial one-dimensional 3rd worldist occidentalist raw-material fetishist. :-)


I read the report you referenced with great interest.
Unfortunately it is form 2000, and so the cost figures should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Here is some more recent data:

I think the critical reason we differ slightly in our assessments is contained in your following statement:
'The reality, I believe, is that the Li usage will ramp up slowly enough that production will expand, and initial usage won't tax world reserves. There was a price slump a few years ago, so suppliers are waiting for the market to expand.'

I also feel that one way or another we are fine in the more distant future, with the possibility of switching to more unconventional sources or altering what we use for batteries entirely.

It does seem to me that if we in fact need more batteries sharpish due to high oil prices, then resources are sufficiently constrained that it won't be quick or easy to increase production.

Opening a new mine, let alone possibly switching to less conventional sources, would take circa 10 years to get into full stream production.

I gave some thought to your argument that the cost of the lithium material is only a small part of the overall costs of production, and the argument is a good one.

In a previous life I used to do cost and works accountancy, so perhaps that gives me a little insight into putting that into perspective.

Prices provide useful signals, and the massive rise in material costs we have recently undergone simply reflects the huge rise in demand from places like China.

Classic economics teaches us that this will lead to increased investment, and more production.

However, in the real world things are not so simple, and delays can be considerable.

It appears that the US and many places in the West are about to undergo a recession, and there is little money to fling about on investment, and for the period of the recession commodity prices tend to be softer than they otherwise would, leading to a lack of certainty on how much return you are going to get in what has become a very risk-adverse environment.

This simply means that we are unlikely to expand production much soon, so when the need hits we would have to start from scratch, and as I said it takes several years to build new capacity.

In addition, although materials may form only a small part of total costs in most industry that percentage tends to remain remarkably constant, as high costs of materials feeds through into other aspects of society.

There is also some confusion in the field between the figures for raw lithium and lithium carbonate as used in batteries - see here for a discussion:

So to sum up, I have no doubt that we can power batteries by one means or another, which was indeed my purpose in introducing zinc batteries into the discussion as that is in no way resource constrained, but if we have to ramp up production quickly due to high oil prices and the continuing heavy demand from the non-western world then it will not be easy to do so and there may be gaps in our capabilities.


This hasn't been mentioned yet:


Western Uranium Corp. has spun off Western Lithium Corp (WLC). They own property in Nevada that is estimated to contain 42 billion lbs of lithium carbonate, or 8 billion lbs of lithium metal.



Thanks for your post, that seems to essentially clear up the issues I found when I looked into resource availability of lithium the other week - I agree that lithium is likely our best option as long as we have the resources available.

Perhaps it is worthwhile to pursue some of the alternatives a bit more though, as it is always good to have back-up.

Carl Hage

DaveMart says: There is also some confusion in the field between the figures for raw lithium and lithium carbonate as used in batteries. Yes, it's confusing reading all reports as sometimes weight of Lithium content is used for reserves or materials, sometimes Carbonate, which is about 5x the weight of Li alone. Also, the Argonne paper uses Ah instead of Wh so it takes a bunch of reverse calculations to figure the 3.7V or 48V, etc. batteries. The Meridian paper cites 58MT carbonate reserves vs 13MT metal (Argonne says 12MT).

Yes, the Argonne paper is old, but in the Tahil interview he says that's what caused him to write the report. The prices are a little higher now, but still-- $30 of carbonate for a PHEV battery is insignificant.

DaveMart: ... we are unlikely to expand production much soon, so when the need hits we would have to start from scratch.

What could the demand be like in 2010? How many PHEV Volts, Preii, etc will be sold? If the 2006 Prius production of 300K is considered a success, then with a 5kWh battery, needs 5kWh*(5*.3)kg/kWh*300K = 2500T. [Toyota plans 1M/yr in 2017, so that's 7500T.]

According to a 2006 report: Further price rises may be tempered, however, by capacity expansions due on-stream by SQM in Chile (+11,500tpy lithium carbonate), and by Admiralty Resources in Argentina (+12,000tpy lithium chloride), in addition to projects planned in China (+45,000tpy lithium carbonate). This is on top of 80kTpy.

In other words, there is 70kT expansion coming on line now, ~10X Toyota's planned 2017 needs, about double current production.

In the China Lithium Carbonate Market Forecast Report 2008-2010, Along with the continuous input of large-scaled lithium carbonate projects in China, the demand and supply balance of lithium carbonate will worsen soon. The global lithium carbonate surplus will amount to 13.2 thousand tons in 2007, and it will become worse in 2008. The supply will be much larger than the demand, which will lead to rapid price drop.

It looks to me like the suppliers are already gearing up for a huge Li battery market. Perhaps China is insuring their battery business can't be held hostage to South American politics?

From all these reports, the issue is what conclusions do we draw-- I've seen some absurd statements in some blogs. Should we abandon research and sell stock in Li (or PHEV/EV) because it's a dead-end technology? No way, there is plenty of supply over the next decades. Should we assume advanced Li will be the best future energy storage? No way, it can't be over the next century, and why should it?

The Meridian report says there is insufficient Lithium available in the Earth's crust to sustain Electric Vehicle manufacture in the volumes required, but the calculations are based on replacing all the cars that exist, so it's true in the very long term, but false in the near term. (This is misleading, because the paragraph before says, The automotive industry is committed increasingly to Electrified Vehicles to provide Sustainable Mobility in the next decade., implying this is a bad decision.) He must have stock in a Zinc-Air company.

The last sentence in the Meridian report summary is what Tahil is really saying (I agree), Research and industrialisation of Electrified Vehicles must also prioritise these alternative battery technologies.

Likewise, we should also prioritize a switch from steel to carbon fiber, not just batteries or biofuel.

Allan R

I'm not so technically up to speed like everyone else seems to be, but my question would be how many of the people posting on this site have a Prius or other hybrid vehicle today? If not, I think most are having more fun talking about this stuff than are taking action. The bottom line is that we need all this technology to reduce global warming right this minute, and we out to be starting today using the technology we have. Keep talking, but go buy a Prius!


JDT wrote: if you have a problem with shortage of resources or destruction of the habitat, then simply limit human child bearing

How could limiting human child bearing address resource shortages?


JDT wrote: the 50,000,000 annual vehicle production on the globe.


In 2006, more than 69 million motor vehicles, including cars and commercial vehicles were produced worldwide.

Allan, I was thoughly castigated by KitP for fessing up to driving a Prius (Pious ne called it). I suspect you'll find a lot of people who have changed their lifestyles over on TOD. Over here I think we are mostly tech geeks -or at least wannabe geeks. But I'll bet the per capita energy consumption of the average reader/commenter (if we could measure it), would be way below what is typical for their society/class, but probably not as low as the back-to-nature crowd on TOD.


Allan R,
I have a Prius. Don't know which to purchase next: (a) Aptera, next year when the Series Hybrid version is available, (b) wait for the Volt, or (c) pick one of the others like a PHEV Prius when Toyota gets there.
Bottom line: Buy an Aptera! Way, way better mpg than Prius. Welcome to the start of the EV/PHEV revolution.



I don't agree that bottom line is CO2 reduction. First order of business is to quit using oil for transport before we find ourselves at war with China, India, and others over the last drops of cheap oil. (There is plenty of more expensive oil left in tar sands, shale oil, and coal/CTL.) This is already happening because of supply and demand economics. CO2 is almost a side issue to this, but using less oil will be a major contributor to reducing our CO2 output.

I aplaud you for actually doing something to help. The success of the Prius has changed the thinking of many. The modification of some Priuses to PHEVs has shown how much more of an improvement, a reduction in oil use, is easily available.


Is it Mr. Fraser? Please check out short blurb on page 10 of March Discover magazine and let us know what you think. "British geologist's study suggests sandstone could rapidly absorb the gas" They're talking about CO2. Pretty exciting if true.


"if you have a problem with shortage of resources or destruction of the habitat, then simply limit human child bearing to 1.5 children a year per couple"
Simply??? I wish.
We could all live like kings.
You are either very inexperienced with life or not very thoughtful. The Chinese with their ruthless rules could not even do this. There's nothing simple about it. BTW Who gets 1 and who gets 0 for the 0.5? There's a major social conflict already.

It is nice to see you basically agree with DaveMart on the lithium issue. You point out the ANL reaches their conclusion with "almost with the same calculations" and go on to say we don't have a lithium problem if we ramp up slowly. Tahill may be a dirt bag (thanks for pointing that out), but he may have a point about lithium. I personally don't think it will be a problem because of all the other alternatives available now.

I disagree with you and DaveMart on one thing. The ramp up to PHEVs and EVs will not be slow. In 2005 GM was still saying HEVs were uneconomical. I was pissed and bought a Prius to help show GM they were wrong. Now they're trying to beat Toyota to market with a PHEV. Not with a few hundred, but with 10,000. This will accelerate. It won't be cell-phone fast, but it will be fast.



Thanks for lithium discussion. You've changed my thinking on this a little. I'm still not convinced there's a serious problem here. A lot of lithium to begin with and too many other alternatives for later on.

I disagree with you on a few points:

1. We can't ramp up production that fast.
I was concerned about this after first reading about peak oil a few years back. A friend pointed out Boeing ramped up to production of 3 times as many airplanes during WW2 compared to now. So maybe we can if we need to ...or if the price of oil gets high enough people will pay more to switch to electric drive.

2. "many places in the West are about to undergo a recession, and there is little money to fling about on investment"
Somebody told me sales of houses below $500k was down in CA, but was up for houses above $500k. The disparity in wealth is greater, but there is a lot of people out there with investment money.

3. You seem to think no money is being invested in other battery storage options. I don't think this is true. FireFly is being smart and taking the A123 approach. They are already selling products: (a) batteries for lawn tools and lawn mowers, and (b) batteries of trucks when they are stopped over in CA and cannot run their deisels for electricity. So they have a good revenue income stream AND the army is paying for them to do further research and development on HEV/PHEV/EV batteries. Look at what EEStor is doing. Look up Nilar for newer, lower cost NiMH batteries. Look at Axiom, FireFly, and CSIRO for improved lead-acid. If you dump too much money into research it does not necessarily speed things up. There is plenty of work still being done.

If you're right about lithium supplies then it's not a problem, it's an opportunity to make a lot of money if you have a good alternative when lithium starts to be in short supply. A good free-market economy will pick up the slack.

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Batteries/Hybrid Vehicles