The future of lithium availability for electric vehicle batteries

Jamie Speirs, Marcello Contestabile

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

15 Citations (Scopus)


Supported by policy, electric vehicles (EVs) powered by lithium batteries are being commercialised in an increasing number of models and their global stock surpassed two million units in 2016. However, there is uncertainty around the future price and availability of lithium, which has consequences on the feasibility of manufacturing lithium batteries at scale. Reaching the EV penetration levels foreseen by governments implies a substantial growth in lithium demand. In this chapter, we review the evidence around future lithium availability for the manufacturing of EV batteries. We examine the methods used to estimate both lithium demand from EVs and lithium supply from brines and ore. The main variables influencing demand are the future size of the EV market, the average battery capacity and the material intensity of the batteries. Supply projections depend on global reserve and resource estimates, forecast production and recyclability. We find that the assumptions made in the literature on the key variables are characterised by significant uncertainty. However based on the available evidence, it appears that lithium production may be on a lower trajectory than demand and would have to rapidly increase in order not to prove a bottleneck to the expansion of the EV market. More research is needed in order to reduce uncertainty on lithium intensity of future EVs and improve understanding of the potential for lithium production expansion and recycling.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBehaviour of Lithium-Ion Batteries in Electric Vehicles
Subtitle of host publicationBattery Health, Performance, Safety, and Cost
EditorsGianfranco Pistoia, Boryann Liaw
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9783319699509
ISBN (Print)9783319699493, 9783319888668
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2018

Publication series

NameGreen Energy and Technology
ISSN (Print)1865-3529
ISSN (Electronic)1865-3537


  • EV batteries
  • lithium volume
  • lithium demand
  • future lithium
  • lithium supply


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