Myth: There is not enough lithium on earth for a global electric economy reliant on lithium-ion batteries

 |  6 May 2024

False. Our discussions with mineral experts suggest that the supply volumes of lithium and other minerals required to meet the demand curves shown in our models are achievable.

Read more about lithium and the other raw materials needed for battery storage:

Explore the evidence...


  • For our discussions with mineral experts that suggest that the supply volumes required to meet the demand curves shown in our models are achievable, see p30 of our Rethinking Transportation report.
  • Current global lithium reserves exceed 30 million tons (U.S. Geological Survey 2017. Lithium. Retrieved from here) and our estimates calculate that 1 million tons of lithium will be required, per year, by 2030. Mineral supply is often seen as the potential key supply constraint, as the processes involved in opening a new lithium or cobalt mine and developing the attendant battery-grade refining capacity are complex and can take about three years. However, our discussions with experts, as mentioned above, have shown that lithium requirements for a global electric economy can be met.
  • Battery producers have been learning how to use fewer resources and less energy to produce a given unit (kWh) of energy storage. Therefore, the energy footprint of the production of batteries of autonomous electric vehicles has already improved and will likely continue to improve on an exponential basis. See p53 of our Rethinking Transportation report.
  • Lithium is a relatively abundant resource, found in many parts of the world.  The largest reserves are currently found in Bolivia and Chile, but it is also found in Canada, Russia, China, Australia and parts of Africa (U.S. Geological Survey, 2017).
    • In our Rethinking Transportation report, we discuss how the disruption of the transportation system will come from emerging technologies: Autonomous Electric Vehicles and Transport-as-a-Service (TaaS). These will be powered by an solar, wind and battery system (SWB), and lithium-ion batteries. We have proven that there is enough lithium to power a global electric future, for both our transportation and energy requirements:
      • Under our TaaS scenario, global TaaS vehicle production would be 28 million by 2030. By 2030, batteries will require 0.6kg of lithium per kWh — an improvement from 0.8kg currently (Interview with Simon Moores, Benchmark Minerals, January 2017).
      • The average battery size is 60 kWh in our model, meaning each car would need 36kg of lithium. Annual lithium requirements would be 1 million tons per year (assuming no recycling).
      • Current global identified resources are over 40 million tons, though we expect market forces to drive more to be discovered and added to reserves as production increases.
      • Even with an increase in rebound effect as transport becomes rapidly more affordable in developing countries, we would expect lithium supply to be able to match demand. Lithium demand in our model is within the constraint identified by our experts. 
  • Lithium is a material stock. In the electric vehicle industry, it is only required to build the battery, while oil is a fuel required to operate an traditional vehicle. Lithium-ion batteries can also be built with close substitute materials and recycled. Lithium scarcity would only affect new vehicle production. Not having lithium is like not having a new engine; the existing fleet can still operate for years. See p55 of our Rethinking Transportation Report.
  • Our research indicates that the mineral quantities required for battery demand are achievable if there is sufficient advance planningSee p55 of our report under ‘lithium ion battery manufacturing’
  • To learn more about the energy and resource requirements of the new transportation system, powered by the new energy system read p52-53 of our Rethinking Transportation report.


Witness the transformation


A new, clean energy future run by 100% SWB is inevitable, and experts have shown we have more than enough lithium reserves to power this future. SWB will replace the old system with a system that has dramatically different architecture, boundaries and capabilities.

Learn more about the disruption and transformation of the energy sector.



Published on: 12/07/23


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