From the Times of London:
Japan's largest automotive and electronics giants are poised to embark on a worldwide scramble for lithium - the material that could be required in bulk if the roads of the future are to be filled with electric cars.
Companies as diverse as Toyota and Panasonic could add mining or lithium-extraction operations to their portfolio of businesses as the technology that powers laptops and iPods is upgraded to drive the Chevrolet Volt, the Mitsubishi Miev and a dozen other electric cars that are on their drawing-boards.
The lithium-ion battery has recently emerged as a potentially critical stop-gap green technology as the motor industry gradually weans itself off the internal combustion engine. Although substantial advances have been made in the production of a commercially viable fuel cell vehicle, infrastructure issues - such as the lack of any network of hydrogen fuelling stations - mean it could be some decades before they enter the mainstream. Cars that can be plugged in and charged overnight, meanwhile, represent a more immediate development focus for the carmakers.
The impending rush to secure stable lithium supplies comes as large swaths of Japanese industry are suffering a crisis of confidence about their pipeline of raw materials. As a country that relies entirely on imports to feed its factories, companies now talk of building “upstream supply” in the form of investment in mines....MORE