According to the green agreement, the European market will need 15 times more batteries for electric cars by the end of the decade alone. The main supplier could be Germany because it is the leader in opening lithium battery factories and in plans to extract lithium from underground geothermal waters.
The condition for this is the environmental technology they are developing.
The depths of the ‘salt lakes’ below the Rhine contain the largest lithium deposits in Europe. On the world list of known reserves, which exceed 2.7 million tonnes of lithium, Germany is in ninth place. Despite these enormous resources, the testing and possible exploitation of lithium is still being approached gingerly.
“People are worried, as everywhere in Europe where you have a dense population, because they don’t like living next to rubbish heaps. But we import lithium from countries like Chile and Argentina, and probably Bolivia in the future. I think we have to take responsibility, and if we have the resources and can produce lithium here, we should do so”, says Dr Jens Grimmer of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
According to RTS, four projects are in progress, and two are developing new technologies in an attempt to avoid environmental damage in exploitation. The process involves the extraction of lithium-rich geothermal groundwater from a depth of three to five kilometres. Lithium would be separated by filtration in power plants, and wastewater would return to those depths, which, geologists claim, would prevent pollution.
RTS German correspondent,Nenad Radičević says this is why in Germany they rely most on one state-owned German and one private Australian company, which are trying to produce lithium from deep geothermal waters.
“According to their expectations, commercial production could start in 2024, and in 2025 enough lithium could be produced from five geothermal power plants for about a million electric cars a year”, says Radičević.
The Australian company that relies on these German resources is Vulkan Energy Resources. It has already concluded contracts with the world’s leading car manufacturers. Stelantis, a merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot-Citroen, should alone receive 99 thousand tons of lithium hydroxide by 2026 for vehicle batteries from Vulkan.
“Their investments in plants for manufactuting lithium hydroxide batteries fit into the plans that Stelantis announced at the time, which are ecological mobility and the transition to hybrid and electric cars of as many as 14 brands on which they will work intensively, and the delivery plan is the beginning of 2026”, said Sanja Lučić, RTS correspondent in Italy.
Vulcan Energy announced in early February that it had received a permit to prospect for lithium in Italy, near Rome. Their plans are ambitious, but implementation will be dictated by rigorous environmental requirements.