Although lithium is very abundant in sea water, only lithium mineral extraction seems to be economically viable. The world's total reserves in lithium minerals is estimated at 13.5 Mt (not sure whether this refers to the weight of the mineral or its lithium content), according to Wikipedia. People often cite lithium scarcity as a reason why not everyone can have an electric vehicle.

Is that really true?

I can think of two circumstances under which the claim can be wrong:

  1. Lithium isn't so scarce, after all.
  2. Availability of Lithium isn't that crucial. (I.e., alternative, lithium-independent, energy storage designs exist)

I'm looking for reputable sources that support either of the above.

  • 2
    I don't know enough about the chemistry and engineering challenges to post a full answer, but there are companies developing sodium ion batteries that have similar energy to weight ratios as lithium ion, and use a massively more abundant metal. Example article - theguardian.com/business/2015/aug/09/… Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 14:41
  • Ive removed the 2 very off-topic questions, leaving the one which I believe could be on topic.
    – Jamiec
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 15:23
  • I am not sure if the question is on topic at all, since you do not doubt a specific claim, but do you count cars running on fuel produced with electric energy (like hydrogen or synthetic hydrocarbons) as electric cars? If so, and even ignoring that there is plenty of research in battery research, there is absolutely no need for lithium to build an electric car. Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 10:09
  • The biggest barrier to electric cars is that battery technology still isn't that great. It doesn't beat the energy density of gasoline and it takes hours to recharge. Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 7:55
  • @RobertStiffler I agree. This also means a solution to the bigger problem will very likely solve the scarcity problem, if real, too.
    – wnrph
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 10:48

1 Answer 1


No, lithium scarcity is not a barrier to the take-up of electric vehicles.

From Bloomberg:

The world’s largest untapped lithium reserve -- containing enough of the lightest metal to make batteries for more than 4.8 billion electric cars ... according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

  • Good answer, you could maybe improve it further by adding a quote or two confirming that those lithium reserves in Bolivia are indeed capable of realistically being mined Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 16:47
  • 2
    @user568458 that's what "reserves" means. Saying that reserves can realistically be mined is like saying that available edible food can realistically be eaten. It's true, and it's redundant. Were you perhaps thinking of "deposits"?
    – 410 gone
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 17:36
  • @EnergyNumbers Thank you for that article, although it seems a bit outdated. Interestingly enough, it mentions the US geological survey. The 2008 issue lists the bolivian reserves only under "Reserve base", which means they are not neccessarily economically exploitable with current-day technology. Besides that, it's unclear whether and under which assuptions, the authors of the Bloomberg derived the 4.8 billion cars figure. I could find it in the geology surveys only where the Bloomberg article was actually cited.
    – wnrph
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 11:15

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