AS IF WE HAVEN’T HAD ENOUGH BAD ECONOMIC NEWS ALREADY, now we need to worry about lithium battery prices going up. It’s a classic case of increased demand for an insufficient supply.
The massive jump in lithium demand comes from automobile manufacturers as they switch to electric vehicles. For example, General Motors recently announced it is “on its way to an all-electric future.” They aren’t the only ones.
From Time Magazine:
“The price for lithium carbonate—the compound that gets extracted from the ground—has shot up 432% year over year, hitting nearly $62,000 per metric ton in April. In the six years prior, for comparison, it averaged around $11,000.
“The price spike is due to the booming electric vehicle market, which is putting demand pressure on battery producers, which in turn puts demand pressure on the minerals suppliers. While the Earth has plenty of lithium to go around, the supply needs to be extracted from brine pools and underground reserves, and current mining operations aren’t sufficient to keep up with the auto industry’s growing needs.”
With the world’s car companies scrambling to secure lithium, they will probably out-bid the makers of the types of batteries we off-grinders use. It will also impact the cost and availability of lithium batteries in our phones and other electronics.
Various people are working on alternative battery technologies, but those are still a few years down the road, and their price is unknown.
What to do about it
So, as with my advice regarding solar panels, this probably the time to buy the lithium battery or batteries you had been planning on—if you are able. That includes portable power stations that use lithium batteries. Prices had been inching downward, getting closer to the cost of comparable lead-acid batteries, but that trend is probably over.
I’m not writing this to push you into buying batteries you can’t afford. I’m trying to save you from needing to buy batteries you can afford even less later.
On the other hand, good old lead-acid batteries remain a viable choice. They don’t have all the pros of lithium batteries, but they don’t have the cons, either—particularly if lithium becomes unobtainium.