Nissan, Honda and Toyota are among car-makers

Lithium is not much to look at. It’s a soft and light, silver-white metal known for its use in mood stabilising drug
But the 25th most abundant element on earth could, one day, help cure the world of its addiction to oil — as a key ingredient in batteries.
US geologists last week released the results of a survey showing around a trillion dollars worth of minerals in Afghanistan, which could make the war-ravaged state “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”, according to a Pentagon memo.
But mining and technology firms have long been looking at lithium through eyes lit with dollar signs.
Lithium-based batteries are used in everything from mobile phones and laptops, to iPods and iPads, as well as military and medical hardware. They have even made their way into the human body, powering pacemakers.
But the main reason companies are betting on lithium is the projected explosion in the number of electric and hybrid electric vehicles.
Nissan, Honda and Toyota are among car-makers now gambling that electric vehicles, with their zero tailpipe emissions, will catch on and start to drive traditional gas-guzzlers off the road.
All will need batteries. Lots of batteries.
Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, and potentially new batteries such as lithium-air, are seen as the best option by many manufacturers over other battery types as they are lightweight and efficient, and can hold more power.
Subbu Bettadapura, Malaysia-based associate director of energy research company Frost and Sullivan, says the battery market is set to grow massively.
The lithium-ion battery market for electric and hybrid vehicles is, he says, conservatively-estimated to be set to grow from 2,400 units in 2008 to 1.53 million units by 2015.
“The tide is definitely going out on oil, in the long run,” he told AFP. “The world’s dependence on oil will decline and will be replaced by other fuels, such as lithium-ion batteries.”
The US, the world’s second biggest polluter after China, clearly agrees.
President Barack Obama has said he wants a million hybrid electric cars on America‘s roads by 2015.
And, at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new lithium-ion battery plant on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden said such factories could reduce US dependence on foreign oil and prevent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
“This is the beginning of a revolution in the production of energy in the country,” said Biden at the ceremony for Dow Kokam?s plant in Midland, Michigan, which will make batteries for 60,000 electric vehicles a year.
Japanese, Chinese and South Korean manufacturers dominate the lithium-ion battery market, and Asia-Pacific lithium mining projects are coming thick and fast.
Australian mining firm Orocobre signed a deal in January with the raw materials arm of motor giant Toyota for a lithium project in Argentina.
This month, a South Korean consortium launched a lithium stock exploration joint-project with a Canadian mining firm, also in Argentina. There are several other deals either signed or in the pipeline.
The world’s largest lithium reserves lie in Bolivia at the Salar de Uyuni – in the remote southern Andean plane. But Bolivia’s left wing government is not seen as a country friendly to foreign industry, so investment has tended to flow elsewhere — to its South American neighbours.
Galaxy Resources, an Australian mining and chemicals company, will soon commission the world’s second largest spodumene — a source of raw lithium — mine in Western Australia, to be processed at its plant in China.
Oil may have had its day, says Anand Seth, Galaxy’s marketing chief, but it will be around for a long time yet.
“Is it the end of oil? I wish!,” he told AFP. “But it is not so simple and probably not in our lifetime.
“The lithium batteries for electric vehicles are very much in the nascent stage and the infrastructure to charge these batteries needs to be developed and installed.
“The next five years will be critical in establishing such infrastructure for recharging the batteries and the technology and standardisation of batteries is also very important.”

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  1. The electric car projects are just a scam to get a certain group of VC’s to control the lithium fields in Afghanistan!

    Dmitry Medvedev Came to Silicon Valley on June 22, 2010 and met with some of the venture capital companies that helped lobby the leverage for the electric car companies that just got funded.

    Ener1 Battery Systems who got zillions of the dollars from DOE per the Loan Guarantee and ATVM Director Seward.

    Is controlled in part by Russian “business man” Boris Zingarevich.

    Who is best friends with the Russian Dmitry Medvedev, who arranged for all of Russia to extend current agreements signed with foreign automakers between 2005 and 2008 granting preferential duties on imported components for eight years in return for sourcing 30 percent of parts locally, the Industry and Trade Ministry said. Once those arrangements expire, the carmakers would need to commit to buying 60 percent of components in Russia within six years to get more tax breaks.

    Dmitry also appears to own interest in lots of Lithium processing and mining company technology in Russia which is pretty close to Afghanistan.

    Afghanistan is: the “Saudi Arabia’ of lithium”. American geologists have discovered huge mineral deposits (possibly $1 trillion worth) throughout Afghanistan, according to the New York Times. Lithium, gold, cobalt, copper, iron, among other valuable minerals are lying beneath what is already a war-torn country with little history with mining. Off and on over the decades, geologists—Soviet, Afghan, American—would investigate and chart some of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, only to put the work on hold as violent conflict erupted. Now, corruption, in-fighting between the central and district governments, foreign interests, and greater zeal from the Taliban might come into play to disrupt a potential economy evolving around these natural resources. With the Ministry of Mines, a Pentagon task force is now helping organize a way of handling the mineral development and bidding rights. How this unfolds socially, environmentally and politically should be interesting.

    The New York Times reports: The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion. The two most prevalent minerals are copper and iron. Niobium, used for making superconducting steel, has also been found.

    The effort to get that money for Ener1 was strong armed by Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar, one of the deans of Congress, and his junior colleague, Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.

    Richard Lugar and Lachlan Seward co-managed the Chrysler Bail-out.

    Lachlan Seward was appointed by George Bush to run all of the tens of billions for the DOE ATVM and Loan Guarantee Programs. He gave most of the money away to his closely aligned interests and negated competing applicants. —

    Another place near Afghanistan that there is lot’s of Lithium is in Mongolia. Blum Capital has targeted the Lithium fields in Mongolia, said to be the second largest fields after Afghanistan in the region. Mongolia touches Russia so mining and equipment access could first take place there via Russia. China wants the Mongolian Lithium too so there is some two-way bidding that each country (Russia and China) do not know about. The owner of Blum Capital is Senator Feinsteins husband. She recently made him the Goodwill Ambassador to Mongolia.

    Blum’s wife, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has received scrutiny due to her husband’s government contracts and extensive business dealings with China and her past votes on trade issues with the country. Blum has denied any wrongdoing, however. Critics have argued that business contracts with the US government awarded to a company (Perini) controlled by Blum may raise a potential conflict-of-interest issue with the voting and policy activities of his wife. URS Corp, which Blum had a substantial stake in, bought EG&G, a leading provider of technical services and management to the U.S. military, from The Carlyle Group in 2002; EG&G subsequently won a $600m defense contract. In 2009 it was reported that Blum’s wife Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to provide $25 billion in taxpayer money to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, a government agency that had recently awarded her husband’s real estate firm, CB Richard Ellis, what the Washington Times called “a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms.” In 2009 the University of California Board of Regents, of which Blum is a member, voted to increase student registration fees (roughly the Univ. of California equivalent of tuition) by 32%. Shortly thereafter, Blum Capital Partners purchased additional stock in ITT Tech, a for-profit educational institution. These events suggest a conflict of interest on Blum’s part. Also see: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2010/09/242044.php and http://www.floppingaces.net/2007/04/02/the-silence-on-the-feinstein-c/ and http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/apr/21/senate-husbands-firm-cashes-in-on-crisis/

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