(Reuters) - Here are five facts about lithium, a metal in high demand for lithium-ion batteries as politicians and automakers push to get more electric and hybrid vehicles on the road.
- Lithium is the lightest metal, with a density about half that of water. In its pure form it is extremely corrosive. It ignites on contact with water and can easily burn flesh.
- Lithium is primarily used in batteries, ceramics and glass, greases, pharmaceutical compounds, air conditioners and aluminum production.
- An electric car takes a 20kWh lithium-ion battery, which is equivalent to 2,500 battery cells. A hybrid uses 1kWh, the equivalent of 125 cells. A notebook PC uses 70Wh, about 8.8 cells. And a cellular phone uses 3Wh, less than half a battery cell.
- The world’s largest lithium deposit is the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, which covers 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 square miles) and is estimated to hold 50 to 70 percent of the world’s lithium reserves. Due to Bolivian government restrictions, Uyuni is not currently being mined.
- Global lithium production is dominated by four companies: Chile’s SQM produces about 32,600 tonnes annually, Australia’s Talison produces 28,200 tonnes, Rockwood Holdings’ Chemetall produces 22,500 tonnes, and U.S.-based FMC produces 16,600 tonnes. Total production in 2010 is estimated at 120,000 tonnes.
Sources: Dundee Securities Corporation, Byron Capital Markets, U.S. Geological Survey.
Reporting by Julie Gordon; editing by Peter Galloway