General Motors Co.
Ultium Battery Pack 60df3c3e45c6f

GM to Source Lithium for EV Batteries from US-Based Startup

July 2, 2021
Controlled Thermal Resources says it can extract lithium in a way with a smaller environmental footprint than traditional methods.

General Motors announced July 2 it would move to source lithium for its electric-vehicle batteries from a U.S.-based startup. The automaker made a multi-million-dollar investment in Controlled Thermal Resources, Ltd., a California-based startup, to help fund a lithium plant in Southern California.

Without disclosing the precise amount of money in the investment, GM said “a significant portion” of its battery-grade lithium would come from CTR, which would provide GM a domestic source of lithium for its electrified vehicles.

As the company’s first investor, GM will also have first rights to the first lithium it produces, which CTR should be available in 2024. GM currently seeks to eliminate tailpipe emissions from its light duty vehicles by 2035.

Right now, GM and other automakers around the world are gearing up for a new era of electrified automotive production, one that produces electric batteries more than internal combustion engines. But batteries don’t grow on trees—the lithium used to make them often comes from open pit mines and other environmentally questionable practices based outside the U.S.

According to CTR, though, their lithium will be produced in a more environmentally-friendly way. Conventional lithium is typically sourced from open pit mines or brine pools. The first method, used in Australia, Mexico and China, mines the clay for spodumene, a mineral that contains lithium. (Tesla CEO Elon Musk has tweeted that his company sources lithium from Australia.) A second method, used in Argentina, uses “salars,” or evaporation ponds, to extract the rare-earth metal from lithium brine.

Both methods, CTR says, demand large physical footprints and leave tailings, and brine ponds also use sizeable quantities of water. It plans to draw thermal brine from the ground, use steam to separate lithium from the brine, and return the water left over to the ground. CTR says the process—powered by geothermal energy—forms a closed loop with minimal environmental impact.

GM’s executive VP in charge of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, Doug Parks, said demand for lithium is set to become even more important as electrification increases. “Lithium is critical to battery production today and will only become more important as consumer adoption of EVs increases,” he said in a statement.

Rod Colwell, CEO of CTR, said the company was “very pleased” to form a relationship with the auto giant, and praised the company for its “initiative.”

“World-wide growth in electric vehicle adoption has highlighted the critical need to develop a strong and secure battery supply chain in the United States,” said Colwell. “CTR is fully committed to developing its significant lithium resources in response to this, and we look forward to collaborating with GM as we continue to accelerate these efforts.”

About the Author

Ryan Secard | Associate Editor


Focus: Workforce and labor issues; machining and foundry management

Associate Editor Ryan Secard covers topics relevant to the manufacturing workforce, including recruitment, safety, labor organizations, and the skills gap. Ryan has written IndustryWeek's Salary Survey annually since 2021 and has coordinated its Talent Advisory Board since September 2023.

Ryan got started at IndustryWeek in August 2019 as an editorial intern and was hired as a news editor in 2020 before his 2023 promotion to associate editor, talent. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the College of Wooster.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!