Eager to avoid falling further behind Tesla and Chinese car companies, many Western auto executives are bypassing traditional suppliers and committing billions of dollars on deals with lithium mining companies.
They are showing up in hard hats and steel-toed boots to scope out mines in places like Chile, Argentina, Quebec and Nevada to secure supplies of a metal that could make or break their companies as they move from gasoline to battery power.
Without lithium, U.S. and European carmakers won’t be able to build batteries for the electric pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and sedans they need to remain competitive. And assembly lines they are ramping up in places like Michigan, Tennessee and Saxony, Germany, will grind to a halt.
Established mining companies don’t have enough lithium to supply the industry as electric vehicle sales soar. General Motors plans for all its car sales to be electric by 2035. In the first quarter of 2023, sales of battery-powered cars, pickups and sport utility vehicles in the United States rose 45 percent from a year earlier, according to Kelley Blue Book.