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Circular 1371

Lithium Use in Batteries

By Thomas G. Goonan

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.31 MB)Abstract

Lithium has a number of uses but one of the most valuable is as a component of high energy-density rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Because of concerns over carbon dioxide footprint and increasing hydrocarbon fuel cost (reduced supply), lithium may become even more important in large batteries for powering all-electric and hybrid vehicles. It would take 1.4 to 3.0 kilograms of lithium equivalent (7.5 to 16.0 kilograms of lithium carbonate) to support a 40-mile trip in an electric vehicle before requiring recharge. This could create a large demand for lithium. Estimates of future lithium demand vary, based on numerous variables. Some of those variables include the potential for recycling, widespread public acceptance of electric vehicles, or the possibility of incentives for converting to lithium-ion-powered engines. Increased electric usage could cause electricity prices to increase. Because of reduced demand, hydrocarbon fuel prices would likely decrease, making hydrocarbon fuel more desirable.

In 2009, 13 percent of worldwide lithium reserves, expressed in terms of contained lithium, were reported to be within hard rock mineral deposits, and 87 percent, within brine deposits. Most of the lithium recovered from brine came from Chile, with smaller amounts from China, Argentina, and the United States. Chile also has lithium mineral reserves, as does Australia. Another source of lithium is from recycled batteries. When lithium-ion batteries begin to power vehicles, it is expected that battery recycling rates will increase because vehicle battery recycling systems can be used to produce new lithium-ion batteries.

First posted January 26, 2012

For additional information contact:
Thomas G. Goonan
U.S. Geological Survey
Box 25046
Denver Federal Center
Mail Stop 750
Denver, CO 80225–0046
Telephone: (303) 236–5209

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Suggested citation:

Goonan, T.G., 2012, Lithium use in batteries: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1371, 14 p., available at




Lithium Demand

Lithium Consumption Statistics

Effect of Electric and Hybrid Cars on Lithium Demand

Estimates of Future Lithium Demand

Lithium Supply

Lithium Carbonate Prices

Lithium Batteries

Battery Types

Battery Production

Battery Recycling

Lithium Battery Outlook

References Cited

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