Lithium: Is Lithium the Fuel of the Future?
Is Lithium the Fuel of the Future?
Your future may be fueled by lithium. Your mother might have encouraged you to work hard, play fair, and pick up your dirty socks, but lithium stands poised to take over the energy world. Everything from your electric car to your spouse's electric car just might crave lithium batteries to store precious power for that trip to the Poconos.
Consumer electronics employ millions of lithium-ion batteries. These miracle devices offer a low weight-to-storage ratio (they can store a lot of electricity in relation to how much they weigh). Lithium primary batteries are disposable while lithium-ion cells are rechargeable.
With an atomic number of 3, Lithium stands as the lightest metal on Earth. It exists as a silvery soft material but its high degree of reactivity requires it to be stored in petroleum jelly or mineral oil. It can actually be cut with a knife (try that with stainless steel). It is found in nature combined with granite or other rock and in brine pools as a byproduct of potash mining. It's actually as abundant as nickel and lead. Vast lithium resources are said to be available in Nevada, US, but the majority of the world's lithium carbonate supplies are in China, Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia.
Lithium fuel cells are also in development. A fuel cell generates power rather than simply storing it, as a battery does. Some fuel cells use a lithium-water reaction to generate hydrogen and electricity. Generally considered to be a 'too violent' reaction to be harnessed for fueling a vehicle, new technologies may allow electrochemical processes that can be safely fitted into production cars and trucks.
What can Lithium do for you?
Lithium ion batteries offer quick-charging and long-lasting alternatives to other types of batteries. Electric cars such as the Dodge Zeo and the Chevy Volt pack huge arrays of lithium batteries. The Volt is capable of cruising 40 miles on a single charge; no gasoline whatsoever is consumed. Lithium storage technology has become the centerpiece of most mainstream electric vehicles.
Should you stock up on Lithium?
It's probably not a good idea to horde lithium; it reacts quickly with water to form lithium hydroxide and highly flammable hydrogen. None of us need excess hydrogen drifting around the house. On the other hand, investing in lithium futures or equities might provide a tidy nest egg should the cars of the future stimulate a jump in demand for the metal.
The South Korean government announced plans to invest 25 million dollars in a lithium processing facility. Their stated goal is to produce over 20,000 tons of lithium annually and dominate the world market. Industry in South Korea claims to posses a process that makes lithium extraction from seawater cost efficient.
How can you invest in Lithium?
Lithium mining stocks can be purchased by amateur investors as well as institutional investors. If lithium is indeed a future fuel for electric cars, then lithium mining companies might find a position in your portfolio. Possible opportunities include:
- Western Lithium (stock symbol WLC.V),
- Lithium Technology Corp. (LTHU.PK), and
- Canada Lithium (TSX-V).
Note: This is not an offer to sell or a recommendation to purchase. These companies may be bankrupt tomorrow. Invest at your own risk. Perform appropriate due diligence before risking any money.