Exxon wants to drill enough lithium from Arkansas to power 1M EVs every year

Fossil fuel giant Exxon is betting that its US lithium operation will power a new generation of electric cars.

The US has hundreds of thousands of tons of “recoverable” lithium, which can be used in batteries for cars, handhelds and renewable energy storage, a 2021 US Geological Survey said. However, the country has just one commercial-scale lithium mining site today, in Nevada — operated by chemical manufacturer Albemarle.

The Biden administration is pushing for more lithium mines, however opposition from the natives and NATURE groups, and now Exxon has committed to drilling it out of Arkansas land. In doing so, Exxon is potentially challenging Tesla — which is working on extracting lithium from Texas clay — as well as several tech startups. Lilac Solutionsfor example, want to take lithium from the Great Salt Lake in Utah. There’s also GM-backed EnergyX, which raised $50 million in April in “VISIT” lithium in North America.

Exxon DECLARED on Monday that it aims to start producing lithium in 2027. It says it is talking to “potential customers” such as electric vehicle and battery makers. By the start of the next decade, Exxon said it aims to produce “enough lithium to meet the manufacturing needs of more than one million EVs annually.”

Exxon executive Dan Ammann told CNBC that the company wants to “go early” on domestic lithium mining. The company used to be first to develop the lithium-ion battery in the 70s, although he bailed on the business early because he did not see its potential to scale.

Lithium is an important component of modern batteries, which can also be used in renewable energy sources and electric vehicles.

Ammann said in a statement that Exxon’s direct lithium extraction technology comes with “less environmental impact than traditional mining operations.” However, taking lithium directly still endangering the environment, including high consumption of fresh water. More broadly, Argentine researchers warned in a 2023 paper that the ecosystems around “lithium deposits are extremely fragile and linked to a food chain where ecosystem services are essential for livestock and rural population.”

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