As most electric car buffs know, the impending glut of hybrids and EVs is about to produce a major shortage of lithium, the main ingredient in many a car battery. South Korea is taking matters into its own hands with a plan to lithium from a novel source: the sea.
Nearly every element in the periodic table can be extracted from seawater–if companies are willing to pay a high enough price. The South Korea Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs is teaming up with steel company POSCO for a $26.4 million investment into developing a seawater-to-lithium extraction plant that should be up and running by 2015. In a press release, the Ministry brags that the plant “will not only meet domestic demand but dominate the global lithium market, which will ultimately contribute to the sustainable development of the eco-friendly car manufacturing industry.”
It’s a lofty goal, and somehow we doubt that it will actually work–Japan has been working on similar technology for the past 30 years and so far has found that it is far too expensive for commercialization. But it’s hard to blame South Korea for trying. Mitsubishi estimates that demand for lithium will exceed supply by 2015, so any country that can get in on the extraction action will be in good shape.