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  • (soft music)

  • - [Narrator] When it comes

  • to electric vehicle manufacturing,

  • few resources are as vital as lithium.

  • Over the past decade,

  • prospectors unearthed troves of the lithium chemicals

  • that power batteries,

  • but the shift toward a cleaner economy is accelerating

  • and batteries play a central role.

  • As a result, demand for lithium

  • is expected to exceed supply through 2025.

  • Car makers and analysts say that more lithium is needed

  • to produce more batteries at a faster pace.

  • And as China takes a leading role

  • in the battery supply chain,

  • the US government is trying

  • to boost domestic supply of the metal.

  • Here's how Lithium became such a hot commodity.

  • Lithium is scattered not only across the US

  • but the entire world.

  • In the top lithium producing country, Australia,

  • miners excavate a mineral called spodumene,

  • which contains the metal.

  • And in Chile and Argentina,

  • companies extract lithium from massive salt lakes

  • by pumping water into the ground.

  • The extracted metals are mixed with other elements

  • to produce compounds, like lithium hydroxide

  • and lithium carbonate.

  • These compounds are a key part of many batteries.

  • Car makers and battery researchers, like Dr. Guihua Yu

  • value Lithium because of its unique chemical properties.

  • - With lithium ions being so small,

  • they can be very easily recharged, as they diffuse quickly

  • during battery charge and discharge.

  • Lithium ions are also very light weight,

  • so batteries based on Lithium ions can offer high energy

  • meaning that a lot of energy can be packed

  • in a small amount or small volume of materials.

  • - [Narrator] These two properties,

  • energy density and rechargeability

  • are the reason why lithium is found in so many batteries.

  • Inside of all batteries are two major components,

  • the cathode and the anode,

  • compounds that contain lithium ions

  • transfer from one components when power is drawn down

  • and they return when the battery is recharging

  • - [Guihau Yu] And they can be charged

  • like hundreds or thousands of times

  • so they have different kind of degradation mechanism.

  • But lithium ions are so small, so they are very stable.

  • So that's the reason why the lithium ions

  • can offer at least a few years of use.

  • (upbeat music)

  • - [Narrator] Scientists have spent decades

  • perfecting lithium based batteries.

  • Lithium was discovered in 1817,

  • but more than a century passed

  • before businesses used the chemical

  • in mainstream batteries.

  • In the 1990s, Sony took advantage

  • of new, lightweight lithium ion batteries

  • in a design for a hand-held video camera.

  • The result was the Handycam.

  • A smash commercial hit.

  • Shortly afterward, rechargeable batteries

  • began to appear in laptops and smartphones.

  • And batteries are increasingly used

  • in conjunction with wind and solar power.

  • Analysts like Simon Moores point out

  • that demand for the chemical is growing

  • as companies build bigger, battery-powered machines.

  • - People need more lithium today,

  • and in the future than in the past,

  • because you're going from lithium ion batteries

  • the size of your mobile phone

  • to lithium ion batteries the size of your car.

  • The entire chasse of an electric vehicle

  • is a lithium ion battery.

  • So there's an order of magnitude bigger,

  • and as a result

  • you need an order of magnitude more lithium supply.

  • - [Narrator] Which means that mining companies

  • around the world are searching for lithium.

  • In the United States,

  • companies like Lithium Americas and Piedmont Lithium

  • are looking for metal-bearing spodumene minerals

  • in familiar places.

  • In the past,

  • lithium from the tin-spodumene belt of the Carolinas

  • was used in the production of both medication,

  • and nuclear weapons.

  • Today prospectors are fanning out

  • in search of new deposits here,

  • as well as in Arkansas, Nevada, and California.

  • The search is based on expectations of consumer demand

  • for electric vehicles.

  • - It takes 4 to 7 years to build a lithium mine,

  • it takes 24 months to build a battery plant.

  • These two parts of the supply chain,

  • they don't live in the same time zones.

  • And that is the major challenge,

  • is matching the supply when the demand is needed,

  • and at present, the industry has really failed to date.

  • - [Narrator] Even though E.V. sales

  • currently make up about 2% of the U.S. auto market,

  • that share is expected to grow to 10% by 2025,

  • according to Morgan Stanley.

  • And policies coming out of Washington

  • could further boost demand for battery components.

  • President Biden ordered a review

  • of domestic supply chains for critical products.

  • That includes semiconductors, key minerals,

  • pharmaceuticals, and,

  • - Advanced batteries

  • like the ones used in electric vehicles.

  • There's strong bipartisan support

  • for fast reviews of these four areas

  • because they're essential to protecting and strengthening

  • American competitiveness.

  • - [Narrator] President Biden's emphasis

  • on supply chain is driven in part by geopolitics.

  • When it comes to lithium, only about 1% of global output

  • is both mined and processed in the U.S.

  • China unearths about 10%.

  • China also processes about two thirds

  • of the worlds lithium supply,

  • and dominates the global battery market.

  • The U.S. government has said

  • that relying on oversea sources

  • for these materials creates a strategic vulnerability,

  • which means that a new hunt for lithium

  • is only getting started.

  • The race is on to see who will supply the world,

  • with this powerful metal.

  • (soft music)

(soft music)

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锂如何成为热门商品(How Lithium Became a Hot Commodity | WSJ)

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    joey joey 發佈於 2021 年 05 月 30 日
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