Joining automakers trend, the BMW Group will be accelerating its expansion of e-mobility in the coming years. By 2030, at least half the company’s global sales are expected to come from fully-electric vehicles.
This will also increase the need for lithium, an important raw material for production of battery cells. For this reason, the company will source lithium from a second leading supplier, US-based Livent. The value of the multi-year contract will total around 285 million euros. Livent will supply the lithium directly to the BMW Group’s battery cell manufacturers from 2022 on.
The BMW Group already signed a contract for the procurement of lithium from so-called hard-rock deposits at Australian mines back in 2019. Now, the company is broadening its supplier base and additionally sourcing lithium from Argentina, where the raw material is obtained from brine from salt lakes.
Livent employs an innovative method, that emphasizes sustainable water use and minimises the impact on local ecosystems and communities. The company will also contribute important data to the study of sustainable lithium mining initiated by the BMW Group.
The salt lakes in the border region between Argentina, Bolivia and Chile are home to roughly half the world’s lithium reserves. In conventional lithium mining, brine from the layers below the salt lakes is pumped out of the ground and evaporated in shallow basins.
Livent obtains lithium from a brine resource in northern Argentina, using a proprietary method that is particularly sustainable. To minimise the impact on the surrounding ecosystem, most of the brine used is returned directly to the surrounding habitat and not evaporated.
This largely preserves the balance between the brine layers and groundwater layers. Solvents and other chemicals do not come into contact with the environment during this process. It also takes up much less space, since evaporation basins are barely used. The company is also involved in local educational programmes and infrastructure measures.
The BMW Group sources critical raw materials like lithium and cobalt directly from producers and makes them available to its battery cell suppliers. In this way, the company creates complete transparency over the origin and mining methods of the material.